Women's Health Texas – Austin

Folic Acid

Folic acid helps prevent neural tube birth defects

Our Austin OBGYNs recommend folic acid supplements for women before and during pregnancy, as they can help prevent certain birth defects.

Folic acid is a form of folate, a B vitamin found in multivitamins for men and women. Folate helps the body make genetic material, including DNA. It’s also necessary for cell division.

Folic acid supplements are especially important during pregnancy because they can help prevent neural tube defects, including anencephaly and spina bifida, which may develop during the early weeks of pregnancy before a woman is even aware that she is pregnant.

This nutrient is also essential for women of childbearing age because it prevents folate-deficiency anemia. Folate helps with the formation and growth of red blood cells, keeping blood healthy.

Folic acid supplements are essential in pregnancy

During their childbearing years, all women, even those who don’t intend to conceive, should take a multivitamin that contains at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily.

If a woman is planning to conceive or is already pregnant, she should take a prenatal vitamin daily to ensure that she is getting enough of this nutrient to protect her baby. Pregnant women need 800 micrograms each day. Our Austin OBGYNs will discuss each woman’s needs at her preconception planning appointment or first prenatal visit.

Certain foods also provide folic acid

In addition to folic acid supplements, certain foods provide women with this essential nutrient, and they are also part of a healthy preconception and pregnancy diet.

  • Fortified or enriched foods, such as cereal and bread
  • Spinach and leafy green vegetables
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Avocados
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Citrus fruits and orange juice
  • Beef liver

Some women are at higher risk for having a baby with a neural tube defect

Certain factors increase a woman’s risk of giving birth to a baby with neural tube defects, which may affect her supplementation requirements.

  • Having a child with a neural tube defect
  • Having a neural tube defect or a partner with one

If a woman has an increased risk, our Austin OBGYNs recommend that she speak with her physician about her supplementation needs. Ideally, she should begin taking 400 micrograms of folic acid at least three months before conception to help prevent birth defects.

Folic acid is a simple way to reduce the risk of neural tube defects by up to 70%. Our Austin OBGYNs recommend that every woman of childbearing age take 400 to 800 micrograms daily. Prevention is key. To find out more about preconception care and prenatal health, contact us to make an appointment with our experienced physicians.