Folic acid is essential for your baby’s nerve tissue development. It helps prevent what are called neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. As your baby’s spine starts to grow very early in pregnancy – often before you even know you are expecting, it’s important to make sure you are getting enough folic acid as soon as you start planning your pregnancy.
A healthy diet with a supplement of 400 micrograms of folic acid and a folate rich diet is the only additional requirement recommended during the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy.
Many foods contain folic acid, including vegetables such as spinach, sprouts, broccoli, green beans, and potatoes. Some bread and breakfast cereals are fortified with folic acid
You can buy folic acid supplements from your pharmacist or supermarkets.
If your risk of having a child with a spinal cord problem is increased then the dose is higher and you will need to discuss this with your doctor.
You would be considered higher risk if;
- You have had a previously affected pregnancy.
- You or your partner have (or have a family of) a spinal cord defect.
- You are taking medication for epilepsy.
- You are obese – especially if your Body Mass Index (BMI) is 30 or more.
- You have coeliac disease, diabetes, sickle cell anaemia, or thalassaemia.
There are no side-effects or risks when taking folic acid.
This is a naturally occurring vitamin that your body needs. Taking folic acid supplements just ensures that you are getting the regular amounts that you need especially during pregnancy.