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B9 - Folic Acid (folate)

Folic acid is a B vitamin. It helps the body make healthy new cells. Everyone needs folic acid. For women who may get pregnant, it is really important. When a woman has enough folic acid in her body before and during pregnancy, it can prevent major birth defects of her baby's brain or spine.

Foods with folic acid in them include leafy green vegetables, fruits, dried beans, peas and nuts. Enriched breads, cereals and other grain products also contain folic acid. If you don't get enough folic acid from the foods you eat, you can also take it as a dietary supplement.

What is folic acid?

Folic (FOH-lik) acid is a B vitamin. It helps the body make healthy new cells. "Folic acid" and "folate" mean the same thing. Folic acid is a manmade form of folate. Folate is found naturally in some foods. Most women do not get all the folic acid they need through food alone.

 

Who needs folic acid?

All people need folic acid. But folic acid is very important for women who are able to get pregnant. When a woman has enough folic acid in her body before and during pregnancy, it can prevent major birth defects, including:

  • Spina bifida (SPEYE-nuh BIF-ih-duh), which occurs when an unborn baby’s spinal column does not close to protect the spinal cord. As a result, the nerves that control leg movements and other functions do not work. Children with spina bifida often have lifelong disabilities. They may also need many surgeries.
  • Anencephaly (an-en-SEF-uh-lee), which is when most or all of the brain does not develop. Babies with this problem die before or shortly after birth.

The results of some studies suggest that folic acid might also help to prevent other types of birth defects.

Folic acid also helps keep your blood healthy. Not getting enough can cause anemia (uh-NEE-mee-uh).

Experts think that folic acid might also play a role in:

  • Heart health
  • Preventing cell changes that may lead to cancer

More research is needed to know this for certain.

 

How much folic acid do women need?

Women able to get pregnant need 400 to 800 mcg or micrograms of folic acid every day, even if they are not planning to get pregnant. (This is the same as 0.4 to 0.8 mg or milligrams.) That way, if they do become pregnant, their babies will be less likely to have birth defects. Talk with your doctor about how much folic acid you need if:

  • You are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant. Pregnant women need 400 to 800 mcg of folic acid in the very early stages of pregnancy often before they know that they are pregnant. A pregnant woman should keep taking folic acid throughout pregnancy. Women should discuss their folic acid needs with their doctors. Some doctors prescribe prenatal vitamins that contain higher amounts of folic acid.
  • You are breastfeeding. Breastfeeding women need 500 mcg. Some doctors suggest that breastfeeding women keep taking their prenatal vitamins to be sure they are getting plenty of folic acid while they are breastfeeding and should they become pregnant again.
  • You had a baby with a birth defect of the brain or spine and want to get pregnant again. Your doctor may give you a prescription for 4,000 mcg of folic acid. That is 10 times the normal dose. Taking this high dose of folic acid can lower the risk of having another baby with these birth defects.
  • You have a family member with spina bifida. Your doctor may give you a prescription for 4,000 mcg folic acid.
  • You have spina bifida and want to get pregnant.

Some people also need more folic acid. Talk to your doctor about how much folic acid you need if you:

 

I don't plan on getting pregnant right now, and I am using birth control. Do I still need folic acid?

Yes! Birth defects of the brain and spine happen in the very early stages of pregnancy, often before a woman knows she is pregnant. By the time she finds out she is pregnant, it might be too late to prevent those birth defects. Also, half of all pregnancies in the United States are not planned. For these reasons, all women who are able to get pregnant need 400 to 800 mcg of folic acid every day.

 

How can I be sure I get enough folic acid each day?

illustration of a multivitamin and folic acid bottle

Women can get enough folic acid by taking a vitamin pill every day. If you have a hard time swallowing pills, you might try a chewable or liquid product that has folic acid. Most U.S. multivitamins have at least 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid. Check the label on the bottle to be sure. Or you can take a pill that only contains folic acid. When choosing a brand of vitamins, look for "USP" or "NSF" on the label. These "seals of approval" mean that the pills have been made properly and contain the amounts of vitamins stated on the label. Also, make sure the pills have not expired. If the bottle does not have an expiration date, do not buy it. Ask your pharmacist for help selecting a product. Please note, if you already are taking a daily prenatal vitamin, you probably are getting all the folic acid you need. Check the label to be sure.

NIH: National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements

 

BUICED PROVIDES 400 MCG which is 100%DV