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Folate

Introduction

Spina bifida is a birth defect that can happen to anyone.  We do not know the exact cause of spina bifida, but research has shown that if a woman takes 400 mcg (0,4 mg) of folic acid every day and at least one month before she becomes pregnant, she reduces her risk of having a baby with spina bifida or another neural tube defect by as much as 70%. The exact cause of the rest of the cases is unknown, but it is believed that genetics and environment may play a role. 

Folic acid Every Day
Folic acid helps you build healthy cells.  Taking folic acid is something you need to do every day, just like you read the newspaper, get ready in the morning, eat lunch, or relax in the evening.  Folic acid is most important when your body is building lots of new cells.

Recurrence Prevention
Women who are at high risk of having a child with spina bifida because they have had an affected pregnancy, have a history of spina bifida in their family or have spina bifida themselves should take a prescription level of 4000 mcg (4,0 mg) of folic acid.

More about folic acid

What is folic acid?
What does folic acid do?
Who needs folic acid?
How much folic acid do I need?

What is folic acid?

Folic acid helps you build healthy cells.  Folic acid is a “water-soluble” B-vitamin.  This means folic acid does not stay in your body for very long, so you need to take it every day.  Taking folic acid is something you need to do every day, just like you read the newspaper, get ready in the morning, eat lunch, or relax in the evening.

What does folic acid do?

Folic acid helps your body build healthy cells.  It is important to get in the habit of taking a vitamin with folic acid every day so that your body has enough when you need it.

Folic acid is most important when your body is building lots of new cells, like before and during pregnancy.  Folic acid reduces the risk of serious birth defects like spina bifida.  Spina bifida is a birth defect that happens when a baby’s spine does not close all the way.  Some birth defects happen very early in pregnancy, even before a woman knows that she is pregnant.  That is why it is important to get enough folic acid every day.  Taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy reduces the risk of spina bifida and other serious birth defects up to 70%.   

There are other reasons for everyone to get enough folic acid every day.  Folic acid might also improve heart health and help prevent some cancers.

Who needs folic acid

Everyone!  Just about everyone needs to take a vitamin with folic acid every day.  Folic acid is an important vitamin that is recommended for all men and women.

Folic acid is most important for any woman who could possibly become pregnant.  Even if you are not planning to become pregnant, your body needs folic acid every day.  Most people do not plan a pregnancy, so it is important to get in the habit of taking folic acid so that your body has it when you need it.

How much folic acid do I need?

All women who could become pregnant should take a vitamin with 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. This is 100% of what you need each day.  On a nutrition label, this is called the Daily Value.  Make sure it says 100% next to folic acid.  You can find this amount in:

  • Multivitamin, or,
  • Folic acid pill.

Some breakfast cereals also have all the folic acid you need.  To be sure that your vitamin or cereal has enough folic acid, check the nutrition label.  It should say “100%” next to folic acid.

Some women may be at increased risk for having a pregnancy affected by a birth defect like spina bifida. Please see your health care provider.  If you are at an increased risk, your doctor should give you a prescription for a higher amount of folic acid.

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