Spanish Version
Print-Friendly
Bookmarks
bookmarks-menu

Folic acid and birth defect prevention

Prevention of birth defects with folic acid (folate)

Information

Taking folic acid before and during pregnancy can reduce the risk of certain birth defects. These include spina bifida, anencephaly, and some heart defects.

Experts recommend women who can become pregnant or who plan to become pregnant take at least 400 micrograms (µg) of folic acid every day.

This is because many pregnancies are unplanned. Also, birth defects often occur in the early days before you may know you are pregnant.

If you become pregnant, you should take a multivitamin with 600 µg of folic acid. Taking a multivitamin with folic acid helps ensure that you get all the nutrients you need during pregnancy.

Women who have had a baby with a neural tube defect may need a higher dose of folic acid. If you have had a baby with a neural tube defect, you should take 400 µg of folic acid every day, even when you are not planning to become pregnant. If you plan to become pregnant, you should talk to your doctor about whether you should increase your folic acid intake to 4 milligrams (mg) each day during the month before you become pregnant until at least the 12th week of pregnancy.

References

Preconceptional counseling. In: Cunningham FG, Leveno KL, Bloom SL, et al, eds. Williams Obstetrics. 24th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2014:chap 8.

US Preventive Services Task Force. Folic acid for the prevention of neural tube defects: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. Ann Intern Med. 2009;150(9):626-631. PMID: 19414842 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19414842.

West EH, Hark L, Catalano PM. Nutrition during pregnancy. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, et al, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 7.

BACK TO TOP Text only

  • First trimester of pregnancy - illustration

    The first trimester of pregnancy is the first three months after conception. Signs of early pregnancy are missed menstrual periods, fatigue, breast enlargement, abdominal distention, and nausea. During this period of time all organ development takes place so the fetus is most susceptible to damage from toxins, drugs, and infections.

    First trimester of pregnancy

    illustration

  • Folic acid - illustration

    Studies show that an increase in the mother's dietary folic acid before conception and during the first month of pregnancy reduces the risk of having a child with a neural tube defect. The recommendation is that women of childbearing years take a daily folic acid supplement.

    Folic acid

    illustration

  • Early weeks of pregnancy - illustration

    The first trimester of a pregnancy is a time of incredible growth and development. A 7-week fetus will have begun to develop all essential organs.

    Early weeks of pregnancy

    illustration

  • First trimester of pregnancy - illustration

    The first trimester of pregnancy is the first three months after conception. Signs of early pregnancy are missed menstrual periods, fatigue, breast enlargement, abdominal distention, and nausea. During this period of time all organ development takes place so the fetus is most susceptible to damage from toxins, drugs, and infections.

    First trimester of pregnancy

    illustration

  • Folic acid - illustration

    Studies show that an increase in the mother's dietary folic acid before conception and during the first month of pregnancy reduces the risk of having a child with a neural tube defect. The recommendation is that women of childbearing years take a daily folic acid supplement.

    Folic acid

    illustration

  • Early weeks of pregnancy - illustration

    The first trimester of a pregnancy is a time of incredible growth and development. A 7-week fetus will have begun to develop all essential organs.

    Early weeks of pregnancy

    illustration

A Closer Look

 
 

Review Date: 5/10/2017

Reviewed By: Anita Sit, MD, Department of OB/GYN, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, San Jose, CA (for identification purposes only). Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com

 
 
 

 

 

A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.
Content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.