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Research has shown that making sure that you have sufficient folic acid in your diet and therefore in your body, at the time of conception and during the first 8 weeks of pregnancy, will help ensure that your baby’s brain and spinal cord develop normally. It is recommended that women who are planning to become pregnant and women who think they might be pregnant take a folic acid supplement.

What is it?

Folic Acid is a man-made version of vitamin B9 or folate

Why?

Research shows that women who consume 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) of folic acid daily before pregnancy and during the first few weeks of pregnancy reduce the risk that their baby will be born with a neural tube defect (NTD) by up to 70%. A NTD is an incomplete development of the brain and spinal cord e.g. spina bifida, anencephaly. Your baby’s neural tube is developing into the brain and spinal cord during the first 5- 6 weeks of pregnancy (before most women have had a positive pregnancy test) this is why it is recommended that you take folic acid supplements before you become pregnant.

What does it involve?

It is recommended that women who are planning to become pregnant start taking a folic acid supplement daily for one month before they become pregnant through to about 10 weeks of pregnancy.

You can take a pregnancy multivitamin that has 0.4 – 0.8 mg of folic acid in it or a folic acid only supplement.

You can also eat folate rich foods e.g. nuts, liver (cooked not pate) dark green leafy vegetables, peas, beans, kiwifruit and freshly squeezed orange juice. (Some breads and breakfast cereals now have folic acid added.)

Side effects?

There is no known toxic level of folic acid so even if you eat a diet rich in this vitamin and take a supplement it is unlikely that you would overdose. However it is recommended that you do not take a supplement that contains more than 0.8mg of folic acid daily.

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