Insights & Actions for Healthy Living

Why is folic acid important for me?

Many women begin thinking about nutrition when they want to start a family. Folic acid is a nutrient of special concern for women who are planning on having a baby now or in the future.

Women who are of childbearing age should include an extra 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid each day in the foods they choose. It is generally not difficult to get adequate amounts from the foods you eat but if you have trouble you can talk with your doctor about using a standard multivitamin/mineral supplement containing 400 mcg of folic acid to meet your needs. Because it is estimated that 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, it is essential to get all the nutrients you need for a healthy body before you become pregnant.

Folic acid is a B vitamin that helps with forming new cells. Women with adequate amounts of folic acid in their cells have a lower risk of birth defects of the brain and spine occurring in their children. Because this particular birth defect occurs within the first few weeks of your pregnancy often before you are even aware that you are pregnant, women are cautioned to keep their intake of folic acid within normal range before they become pregnant for optimal prevention. Taking the appropriate amount of folic acid before pregnancy can reduce neural tube defects by 70%!

Many breakfast cereals have been fortified with folic acid, most contain 100% of the daily value for folic acid in one serving. It is important to read the nutrition fact panel to see if the amount is adequate and select a cereal that meets your needs.

Once you become pregnant it is important to take your prenatal vitamins as prescribed by your doctor because they will contain the needed amount of folic acid to nourish your growing baby.

Getting all the nutrition we need to allow our bodies to work efficiently is important for all of us but getting enough folic acid is especially important for women who may become pregnant and those who are currently pregnant.


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