a plate full of green vegetables

Folic Acid During Pregnancy

It is important that you take folic acid during pregnancy, especially during the first three months. Folic acid is a synthetic form of the B vitamin folate. It is very important for healthy fetal development. You should start taking folic acid supplements as soon as you discover you are pregnant, if you are not already taking them.

What does folic acid do?

Folic acid helps to protect your baby against central nervous system defects including:

  • Spina bifida – a fault in the spinal cord development that leaves a gap in the spine
  • Anencephaly – a developmental fault that means the baby is born without parts of the skull and brain. Most babies born with this condition will die shortly after birth
  • Cleft lip – a split in the upper lip, the roof of the mouth, or sometimes both
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Limb defects
  • Urinary tract anomalies

Recent research found a link between folic acid intake and the prevention of autism spectrum disorders. Not enough research has been carried out to determine the reasons for, or strength of, this link.

Taking folic acid can also protect your baby from premature birth and low birth weight.

How much folic acid should I take?

You need to take a daily supplement containing 400mcg of folic acid for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Women trying to conceive are also advised to take 400mcg a day.

The body cannot store folic acid, so it is important to take a supplement every day. Some prenatal vitamins will include the full 400mcg, or you may wish to take it as a stand alone supplement.

If you have a family history of neural tube defects such as spina bifida, you should speak to your healthcare provider. Some doctors may advise taking a higher dosage (up to 5mg) of folic acid each day for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. If you have diabetes, or are currently taking anti-epileptic medication, you may also be advised to take a higher dosage of folic acid. Speak to your healthcare provider about folic acid as soon as possible.

Foods rich in folate

Folate, the natural form of the B vitamin, occurs naturally in some foods, and it is important to eat a variety of these foods each day. Folate rich foods include green leafy vegetables, chickpeas, black eyed peas and brown rice. Some cereals are fortified with folic acid. Be sure to include a variety of these foods in your diet throughout the pregnancy.

If you have only just discovered you are pregnant, and have not been taking supplements until now, do not worry. Just be sure to start taking 400mcg of folic acid each day from now until 12 weeks. To ensure you remember to take the supplement, do it at the same time each day and include it as part of your daily return. Alternatively, you could set a daily reminder on your mobile phone to make sure you remember.

Written by Fiona, proud owner of a toddler, @fiona_peacock

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2018. All rights reserved.

Fiona PeacockFolic Acid During Pregnancy

Comments 40

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  6. Angela

    I am 4months pregnantg.I mistakely took folic acid 3times a day for 2weeks.Pls,can it be harmful to my baby in the womb or what is the side effect?Tnks.

  7. Susan

    I am 7weeks and three days. I had a miscarriage 6Months ago so then started taking folic acid. My morning sickness is very bad not so much the vomiting but just feeling bad from morning to night. I can’t stand food but when I eventually start eating it’s fine. I am taking pregnacare plus and some say they add to the morning sickness not sure how true this is. Anyone suffering the same? Would like some tips if any. Thanks Suzy 😊

  8. Ajee

    I have epilepsy and luckily have been taking folic acid way before I found out I was pregnant . Plus I have prenatal that have extra folic acid in them to counter act my seizure meds. I been on top of my game since before I found out . We were trying after our miscarriage I’m 7 weeks 3 days . Healthy baby so far 😀

  9. Megan

    Man, reading these comments makes me feel kind of lucky! I’m also 7 weeks into my first pregnancy. No throwing up, although lots of food aversions and I can’t bother with eating after 3p because food increasingly sounds disgusting. Clearly things could be worse, though!

    I’m also taking Garden of Life raw organic prenatals. I’m able to take them plus omega-3 plus probiotics all on an empty stomach with no prob. I was a vegan for 2 years prior to conception (I’ve put that on hold for now, to ensure Little Boo gets what s/he needs) but B vitamins have been a daily mainstay for me. Didn’t get onto prenatals until week 4, but I feel like if you are eating a whole food diet that covers the color spectrum, you’re good until you get onto the vitamins bandwagon.

    How do people figure out if they have this folic acid gene mutation? It’s just a guess, but I would assume you’d be aware of it long before pregnancy, especially if you eat a B-rich diet or simply take a multivitamin each day?

  10. Dreama

    As the mother of an Autistic child, I can say that folic acid is not a link, as I took my vitamins as recommended with the folic acid, and he still ended up with it. I wish they would find a plausible cause without grasping at straws like this. It’s frustrating.

  11. tameka

    Been 7weeks an3days pregnant with my second child and just about to have my first doctor vist and to start my folic acid ,it work for me .

  12. Sydney

    GARDEN OF LIFE, Raw Organic Prenatal Vitamin!

    3 capsules a day but they are soft and easy to swallow. Ginger helps w morning sickness. It’s actually food for your unborn.

  13. Sasha Lopez

    I take the brand new chapter pregnancy vitamins which is all natural doesn’t contain any synthetic form of vitamins. Works good for me and has folate not folic acid.

  14. Britt

    Synthetic. Can you tell me how anything synthetic is better for you than real foods? I wont be taking any synthetic vitamins/minerals but I will be eating whole real foods! God bless.

  15. Lauma

    I use Pregnacare! Honestly i think they do miracles. We tried for a baby 1 year and then i started to use Pregnacare and got pregnant in 2 weeks, they help your body a lot..also started to drink healthy smothies with kale or spinach which is also good source of getting iron and folic acid. And now im 8 weeks 🙂

  16. maira

    I am 7 weeks and 4 days pregnnt..
    I though i cant have a baby. Because my right ovary and fallopian tube was remove because of cyst..
    My older daughter is turn 20..and i am 39 years old..
    I am having a morning sickness and most i food to eat i trowup always.. I taking folic acid and obmom vitamins since i was 4 weeks pregnant. .
    And most of the time i am laydown on my bed because i feel nausia and my body feel tired..
    Do you think is folic acid anf obmom vit is good for my baby?

  17. maira

    I am 7 weeks and 4 days pregnnt..
    I though i cant have a baby. Because my right ovary and fallopian tube was remove becaue of cyst..
    My older daughter is turn 20..and i am 39 years old..
    I am having a morning sickness and most i food to eat i trowup always.. I taking folic acid and obmom vitamins since i was 4 weeks pregnant. .
    And most of the time i am laydown on my bed because i feel nausia and my body feel tired..
    Do you think is folic acid anf obmom vit is good for my baby?

  18. Angella

    Help? This is my first pregnancy and I’m about 7 weeks pregnant and my first appointment isn’t until two weeks from now. Should I start taking prenatal and folic acid considering I haven’t been to the doctor yet. I read that some women can’t take folic acid due to risks of birth defects, but spinal bifida and heart problems runs in my family. I’m not sure what to do.

  19. Stacy

    Please talk to your doctor first! Many women like myself have MTHFR and we cannot break down folic acid. This can be very harmful to you and your baby. It’s a simple blood test your doctor can do to determine if you are MTHFR.

  20. ️Vivi

    PLEASE READ BEFORE TAKING FOLIC ACID SUPPLEMENTS : Please be aware that 1 in 5 women have the gene mutation MTHRFR. These woman SHOULD NOT take folic acid supplements and should talk to their Drs about the correct way of supplementing healthy development of their babies. Synthetic Folic acid is actually poisonous to women and their babies with this gene mutation. Please help spread this important knowledge so more woman can make informed decisions.

  21. Jacky

    During first pregnancy it was always high risk I always took my prenatals . In labor I had preclampsia and they did everything they could to help me and save bothe and my daughter. I know am on my second pregnancy and have to take 4mg extra of folic acid even though am taking my prenatals. I am epileptic so I am at very high risk for preclampsia agian and also my baby to have neurological defunctions and with being said its scary but for my opinion there is no reason for a abortion . I know god is by my side . although I am very anxious of this pregnancy .

  22. kate

    my sons wife is 35 years old and I was diagnosed with poor ovarian reserve and very bad prognosis of having a baby with my own eggs. I was even given the option to consider donor eggs. That was around july 2014. I was absolutely devastated with the news and I arranged an IVF for November 2014 and it failed also, given that I had nothing to lose, I contacted on facebook (Oduduwa Ajakaye) and he send me his herbal product,. Believe it or not… I am already pregnant!

  23. Angel

    Im 7w 3 days i take diclegis for nausea and I haven’t been sick thank god im carrying multiplies i take prenatal gummies over the counter and I take them on an empty stomach and it doesn’t make me sick they are very good try them good luck

  24. lucia

    I have extremely bad morning sickness, as soon as u wake up im sick and everytime i eat or drink anything im sick, i have very bad cramps and cant even leave my bed, in 7w and 3 days, ive been told not to take folic acid on an empty stomach but i phsically cant eat anything! When i do take the tabs im always sick but its throthy and burns my throat, tgis is my first pregnancy and im really really struggling and im told its going to get worse!! I need any advise and help i can get x

  25. Melissa

    Since my prenatal vitamins are making me nauseous, i find that taking them right before going to bed makes my life way easier. I also find that taking them on an empty stomach is the worst! I’m passed 8w and started taking Materna 6 months ago as advised by my doctor. If anything it helps you get used to the daily intake, this way it’s easier not to forget taking it once you’re pregnant.

  26. Amanda

    Because of some birth control I was on I didn’t find out I was pregnant till I was 5 months and never once took any prenatal or folic acid pills until I found out and my daughter is now two and hasn’t had any problems. No problems at birth either. I’m sure it’s very helpful with development but if people can’t stomach it then so be it. And if their doctor says it’s okay then who are we to say that doctor is neglectful or incompetent.

  27. Emma

    I wasn’t able to take any vitamins until I was 19weeks due to having HG and not being able to keep down anything, even water.
    All scans show my baby is happy and healthy, am 22weeks now

  28. Danielle

    For those questioning taking frolic acid during pregnancy… If you can stomach it, take it ! It’s been a part of pregnancy literature for many many many years and has proven only to be helpful. If your doctor has never mentioned it, he/she is either negligent or assuming you already know to take it. It’s also great to take it in the lead up to falling pregnant if you are actively trying. I was taking it for roughly 4 months before I fell pregnant and I’m currently 21 weeks and still taking it, for peace of mind.

  29. Nancy

    My nausea was really bad for the first 3 1/2 months & my prenatal vitamins only made it worse. The dr put me on diclecton & they have helped a lot. I decided to switch my vitamins to the brand materna & they haven’t made me nauseaus at all. It never hurts to take a prenatal vitamin while pregnant. My dr also told me it’s a good idea to take them until I’m finished breast feeding after baby is born. I’m currently 22 weeks 1 day pregnant with my first baby

  30. Gina

    Kale has a great source of folic acid. Because the actual leaf has little taste it takes on the taste of what you mix it with. I lightly sautée it in garlic olive oil & lemon with a pinch of s&p. lots of other great recipes out there.

  31. emily

    Well I have 4 kids and I am 35 weeks with my 5 baby never told prenatal vitamins and folic acid all my kids are health..

  32. Brandy Alfrey

    I just started taking folic acid . I am 4 weeks and 6days this is my second pregnancie and I just heard of this … But I did not take it with my first pregnancy and my son was healthy should I stop or continue taking the folic acid ?? Or should I ask my doctor to see what he thinks ??

  33. Cristina

    I’m kind of worry because i haven’t been able to take any of my prenatal vitamins because i have my nauseas really bad I haven’t been able to eat and I’m loosing pounds so my doctor said not to take them for the moment. I’m 14 wks 6 days. Is that bad 🙁 are there any consequences ?

  34. Ruth

    Lorraine I was the same I took them daily till scan at 13 weeks then went to boots to see what or if I should take anything next and found that all the recommended tablets still contain it, so I’m just going to carry on takin it. The choice is overwhelming but as long as your having a healthy diet I think that’s all that matters. If they think something’s wrong they will advise you of what to do /take. X

  35. Eleanor

    @Kerry: I’m no expert but I can’t imagine that missing the odd day would matter. If they wouldn’t stay down, they wouldn’t. (As a tip, perhaps try taking them at a different time of day, when you tend to feel less sick – if there is one!).

    However, your doctor is being EXTREMELY irresponsible suggesting you don’t take folic acid at all – and flying in the face of all international recommendations. I’ve seen a friend go through the trauma of being told her baby had spina bifida, and nothing is worth risking that. Especially as it’s just a matter of swallowing a tablet each day. Have you got the option to change your doctor? He/she sounds incompetent and ignorant.

    All the best with your pregnancy. 🙂


  36. Kerry

    I was taking them daily for the first few weeks then I had a lot of sickness and could not stomach them. Because of this there have been odd days over last few weeks where I could buy have. I’m 11 weeks now and worried. My doctor said that some women font find out they are pregnant until 3months and so don’t take any. I am now trying to take one each night

  37. Lorraine

    I was taking folic acid for the first 12 weeks then stopped, but should I be taking it all the way through my pregnancy . I’m now 17 weeks ?

  38. Rachna

    Hi…. I am five and a half month pregnant. I am taking 5 mg of folic acid from the first day but now through ur website I came to know about it’s advantages during pregnancy. Thanx a lot…
    Keep updating these kinds if informations.