Most women have heard of folic acid and think of it as something to take while you are pregnant. The fact is that if you are sexually active and could become pregnant, whether you are planning to or not, you need to take a folic acid supplement every day.
Why take folic acid every day?
The thing is that about half of pregnancies are unplanned. That means, that by the time you realise you are pregnant it may be too late to help support your baby’s spine and brain development by simply taking folic acid. Your baby’s spine develops fully in the first 28 days of pregnancy. That’s why taking folic acid is essential for at least 3 months before and during the first 3 months of pregnancy. You never know when you might become pregnant, so taking folic acid every day can help your baby to develop without a neural tube defect (NTD).
If you are sexually active and could become pregnant, whether you are planning to or not, we recommend that you take a 400 micrograms folic acid supplement every day before pregnancy and during the first 3 months of pregnancy.
- Folic acid is a vitamin that is essential for everyone’s health and women need extra during early pregnancy. It is a B vitamin called vitamin B9. Folic acid isn’t stored in the body so you need to take it every day.
- Taking folic acid can help prevent certain birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, known as neural tube defects (NTDs). Spina bifida is one of the most common NTDs. NTD’S can bring about nerve damage or incomplete brain development in severe cases, causing disabilities. Many of these (up to 70%) could be prevented by taking folic acid.
- Folic acid works best if you take it before and during early pregnancy. It should be taken at least 3 months before getting pregnant to help reduce the risk of NTDs in your unborn child. If you are already pregnant, start taking folic acid straight away and continue each day up to 3 months into your pregnancy.
- It’s best to take folic acid as an individual supplement because that ensures that you get the right dose of 400 micrograms a day. Some multi-vitamins may contain 400 micrograms of folic acid but they may also could contain vitamin A, which is not recommended during pregnancy. Check the label. Folic acid supplements are not expensive and can often cost less than a cent, or pennies, a day.
The bottom line!
Remember if you are sexually active and there is a chance you could become pregnant then you need to take folic acid every day.