What is folic acid?

Folic acid is a B vitamin. It helps the body make healthy new cells. 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.

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.

What foods contain folic acid?

Folic acid is found naturally in some foods, including

leafy vegetables

citrus fruits

beans (legumes)

whole grains. (Click each food group for an article on each with its health benefits)

Older adults need 400 mcg of folic acid every day for good health. But older adults need to be sure they also are getting enough vitamin B12.

Consuming too much folic acid can hide signs that a person is lacking vitamin B12, which can cause nerve damage. Lacking vitamin B12 is rare among women of childbearing age. Plus, most prenatal vitamins also contain B12 to help women get all that they need. People at risk of not having enough vitamin B12 are mainly people 50 years and older and people who eat no animal products.

For more in depth information on the article check out Women’sHealth.gov

  • There are 3,000 pregnancies affected by spina bifida or anencephaly, which are neural tube defects (NTDs) caused by the incomplete closing of the spine and skull.
  • 50% to 70% of these NTDs could be prevented if women took 400 mcg of folic acid daily, before and during pregnancy CDC Link for statistics