Folic acid is a B-vitamin that is necessary for proper cell growth.
If taken before and during early pregnancy, folic acid can prevent up
to 70% of some serious birth defects of the brain and spine, called neural tube defects.
The CDC and the U.S. Public Health Service recommend that all women between the ages of 15 and 45 consume 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily to prevent two types of neural tube defects, spina bifida and anencephaly. Since these birth defects develop within the first few weeks of pregnancy, it is important to have enough folic acid in your body BEFORE becoming pregnant and to continue getting enough folic acid during early pregnancy. Women need folic acid even if they are not planning to become pregnant since almost half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned.
Women who could possibly become pregnant can consume 400 mcg of folic acid every day by:
taking a daily multi-vitamin containing folic acid, and
eating fortified foods like grains, pastas, or breakfast cereals.
Although all enriched cereals and grain products in the U.S. are fortified with the B vitamin folic acid, only one-third of U.S. women of childbearing age get the recommended amount from their diet. Taking a multivitamin with folic acid every day is the easiest way that women can get the recommended amount of 400 mcg.
National Birth Defects Prevention Network
1321 Upland Drive, Suite 1561
Houston, TX 77043
(800) 621-3141 x13
(202) 944-3295 Fax
Contact: Marlene Anderka, ScD, MPH
“Source: 2019 National Health Observances, National Health Information Center, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC.”