The Importance of Folic Acid

Medical Contribution by Dr. Nancy Durso

Everyone knows how important adding a daily vitamin is to a well-balanced diet. And most people are aware that when you are pregnant, you should take a prenatal vitamin. Prenatal vitamins have a higher amount of several vitamins in particular, folic acid and iron. So, what is the big deal about taking folic acid in pregnancy? Dr. Nancy Durso, of Shady Grove Fertility’s Fredericksburg, VA office, explains the importance of taking folic acid when trying to conceive and during pregnancy.

Folic acid is one of the best preventive care measures ever discovered. Folic acid is a B vitamin that can significantly reduce the risk of a fetus developing neural tube defects in early pregnancy. Neural tube defects can cause spina bifida and are the second most common birth defect among women in the United States. The good news is that women who take folic acid supplements have an 80 percent reduction in neural tube defects. Folic acid can also reduce the risk of heart-related birth defects.

Take Folic Acid When Trying to Conceive

All women should start taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid as soon as they begin trying to conceive. If taken prior to conception, folic acid can significantly decrease the incidence of the birth defect called spina bifida and other neural tube defects of the spine. Starting a prenatal vitamin regimen once you’re pregnant is too late, as the neural tube has already started forming by the time a woman knows she is pregnant.

Folic acid is found in green leafy vegetables. Eating a healthy diet before and during pregnancy is very important. However, you actually cannot get enough folic acid from your diet alone to achieve this reduction in risk. Women who could become pregnant should take at least 400 mcg (0.4 mg) of folic acid in a daily vitamin.  Prenatal vitamins contain at least 800mcg.

Related: Prepare Your Body for a Healthy Pregnancy

Editors Note: This post has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness as of October 2019.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Nancy Durso, please contact our New Patient Center at 888-971-7755 or fill out this brief form.