Folate, also called folic acid, is a very important vitamin for women and babies. It is critical for healthy DNA and brain development in babies. Pregnant women need at least 400 µg daily.
Because it takes several months for folate to build up in a woman’s body, the best time to take folate and prenatal vitamins is before becoming pregnant.
Women who don’t eat enough folate have a higher risk of babies born with neural tube defects. Low folate during pregnancy is also linked with lower birth weight, preterm delivery, and fetal growth retardation.
The baby’s brain and spinal nerves begin to develop in the first 2 months of pregnancy. A woman may not know she is pregnant until she misses her period. If she is deficient in folate, her baby will miss out on the full benefits of prenatal vitamins during this important time.
Since 1998, many foods in America are fortified with folate, including bread, cereal, pasta, and other grains. However, certain foods naturally have a large amount of folate including spinach, black-eyed peas, beef liver, and asparagus.
Folate and prenatal vitamins are available over-the-counter, but prescriptions medication is also available. Talk with your doctor today to build up your folate levels. Your baby will thank you for it.
Reviewed by Muhammad Emran, MD