What Is Folic Acid?

Folic acid is a B vitamin that helps our body make new cells.1 A synthetic form of folate, we add folic acid to supplements and certain foods to help individuals (especially pregnant women) meet their daily required amount. Folic acid helps protect against birth defects, such as spina bifida.2 This is why doctors recommend that pregnant women consume an adequate amount of prenatal folic acid.

What Does Prenatal Folic Acid Do?

Folic acid is so important for a healthy pregnancy that doctors recommend women start taking it even before conception. Folic acid for pregnancy helps with the following:

  • Protects against birth defects
  • Promotes healthy cell division
  • Required for a healthy nervous system
  • Helps produce DNA and RNA3
  • Helps the body form red blood cells4

How Much Prenatal Folic Acid Do We Need?

While pregnant it is recommended you get 600 µg of folic acid per day and 500 µg while you are breastfeeding.3 However, it is difficult to get enough folate from food alone. That’s why Health Canada recommends taking a multivitamin containing 400 µg (0.4 mg) of folic acid every day at least three months before you get pregnant and continue throughout your pregnancy.5 Make sure your supplement also contains vitamin B12 and no more than one mg (1000 µg) of folic acid unless your physician recommends otherwise. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about before taking a supplement with folic acid for pregnancy.

Where Can I Get Folic Acid for Pregnancy?

In addition to taking your multivitamin, make an effort to eat more foods that are good sources of folate such as:

  • Beans and Legumes
  • Liver
  • Nuts
  • Dark green vegetables (spinach, kale, broccoli, asparagus)
  • Orange juice
  • Fortified cereals
  • Enriched whole grain bread
  • Wheat germ

Tips for Getting More Prenatal Folic Acid:

  • Take a daily multivitamin with folic acid. Put your vitamin bottle in a place that is easy to see, and take your multivitamin at the same time each day—this will help make sure you don’t forget!
  • Get in the habit of taking a multivitamin with folic acid early. Many pregnancies are unplanned, and folic acid is critical during the first few weeks of pregnancy, before you might even know you’re pregnant.6
  • Make an effort to buy folic acid-fortified foods at the grocery store. Many breads, cereals and pastas are enriched with folic acid. Check the food label if you’re unsure!
  • Eat a well-rounded diet with nutrient-rich foods. In addition to folate, DHA and Calcium are two other essential nutrients for pregnancy.
  • Experiment with new, nutritious recipes to increase your folate intake. Our Nutty Banana Smoothie is rich in folate (plus, it’s delicious!)
  • Do you have more questions about prenatal folic acid? Talk to your doctor about how to make sure you’re getting enough folate and folic acid in your diet.

Related Links:

Visit the Public Health Agency of Canada's website on Folic Acid

Visit Health Canada's Prenatal Nutrition Guidelines on Folate

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