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Folate and folic acid during pregnancy

Part of the B Vitamin group, folate - known as folic acid in its synthetic form - is potentially the single most important nutrient to consume enough of during pregnancy. With a recommended daily dose during pregnancy of at least 400 micrograms (mcg), folate is very much a “can’t-miss” nutrient, and folic acid is almost certainly prominently featured in every prenatal vitamin (usually closer to 800 or 1000 mcg). Women are encouraged start taking folic acid supplements a month before they begin trying to conceive.

How does folate help development?

Proper folate intake can help set the groundwork for a healthy pregnancy, and a healthy baby. The importance of folate begins even before pregnancy, as it’s known to enhance fertility, and an embryo needs to start tapping in to your folate reserves to start developing the little cells and neural tube, which will grow to become the brain. Without proper folate access, there is a much higher chance of developing a neural tube defect like spina bifida. There is an increased risk of fetal anomalies such as cleft palate or miscarriage if adequate folate intake is not achieved during pregnancy, particularly the first three months.

What are some good sources of folate?

Although all moms-to-be should definitely take a prenatal vitamin that supplements them with all of the folic acid they need, it’s also a great idea to pick up additional folate through your diet, as women can safely consume up to 1,000 mcg each day. Foods that are high in folate or folic acid include:

  • Leafy greens like spinach, romaine lettuce, kale, and broccoli
  • Asparagus which the National Health Institute says contains almost 100 mcg of folate in each serving
  • Fortified grains like cereals and pastas that are enriched with high quantities of folic acid. In fact, the U.S Food and Drug Administration require food manufacturers to supplement their grains with folic acid
  • Citrus fruits like oranges and papayas are very high in folate
  • Avocado is high in folate among all of the other beneficial vitamins and minerals found in the delicious super-food
  • Soybeans, nuts and lentils frequently contain high concentrations of folate

Reviewed by Dr. Jamie Lo
Read more
  • Sir John Dewhurst. Dewhurst's Textbook of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 8th ed. Keith Edmonds. John Wiley and Sons Ltd, 2012. Print.
  • "Spina bifida Prevention." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 6/03/2016. Web.
  • Hannah Blencowe, Simon Cousens, Bernadette Modell and Joy Lawn. "Folic acid to reduce neonatal mortality from neural tube disorders." International Journal of Epidemiology. 39 (suppl 1): i110-i121. Web. 2010.
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