Folic facts

We’re sure you’ve heard of folic. It’s that stuff you take when you’re pregnant right? Well actually, if you’re sexually active, you should be taking folic now! Contraceptives aren’t 100% effective. So, if an unplanned pregnancy were to happen, taking folic daily could help to protect the baby’s brain and spine.

Why take folic acid every day?

About half of all pregnancies are unplanned, that’s one in two! A baby’s spine develops fully in the first 28 days of pregnancy. So, by the time you realise you’re pregnant it may be too late to help support the baby’s spine and brain development.

That’s why taking folic acid tablets is essential for at least 3 months before and during the first 3 months of pregnancy. Contraceptives aren’t 100% effective, so if you were to have a surprise baby, taking folic acid tablets every day could help the baby to develop without a neural tube defect (NTD).

The facts

  • 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 tablets 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 the unborn child. If you are already pregnant, start taking folic acid tablets 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 you get the right dose of 400 micrograms a day. Some multi-vitamins may contain 400 micrograms of folic acid but they could also 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!

If you are sexually active and there is a chance you could become pregnant then you need to take folic acid tablets every day.