Facts about folic acid
Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects (ntds) serious birth defects of the spinal cord (such as spina bifida) and the brain (such as anencephaly). Neural tube defects occur at a very early stage of development before many women even know they’re pregnant.
The centers for disease control and prevention (cdc) reports that women who take the recommended daily dose of folic acid starting, at least, one month before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy reduce their baby’s risk of neural tube defects by 50 to 70 percent.
Some research suggests that folic acid may help lower your baby’s risk of other defects as well, such as cleft lip, cleft palate, and certain types of heart defects.
How much folic acid you need
To reduce your baby’s risk of developing a neural tube defect, experts recommend that you take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid per day, beginning, at least, a month before you start trying to get pregnant.
The neural tube from which your baby’s spine and brain develop begins to form about three weeks after conception, so it’s critical to get a sufficient daily dose of folic acid before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Higher dose folic acid
Some women have an increased risk of having a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect and are advised to take a higher dose of 5 milligrams (mg) of folic acid each day until they are 12 weeks pregnant. Women have an increased risk if:
They or their partner have a neural tube defect
They have had a previous pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect
They or their partner have a family history of neural tube defects
They have diabetes
In addition, women who are taking anti-epileptic medication should consult their gp for advice as they may also need to take a higher dose of folic acid. Find out about epilepsy, anti-epileptic medication, and pregnancy.