brown bowl of edamame or soy beans

Folate and folic acid during pregnancy

Part of the B Vitamin group, folate – known as folic acid in its synthetic form – is potentially the single most important nutrient to consume while trying to conceive and in early pregnancy. With a recommended daily dose during pregnancy of at least 400 micrograms (mcg), folic acid is very much a “can’t-miss” nutrient, and it should be prominently featured in every prenatal vitamin. Those folks who are trying to get pregnant should start taking folic acid supplements about 3 months before they begin trying to conceive.

How do folate and folic acid help development?

Proper folate intake can help set the groundwork for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. The importance of folate begins at the earliest stage of pregnancy because an an embryo needs to start tapping into your folate reserves to start developing the little cells for their neural tube, which will grow to become the brain. Without proper folate access, there is a much higher chance of developing a neural tube defect like spina bifida. There is an increased risk of fetal anomalies such as cleft palate or miscarriage if adequate intake is not achieved during pregnancy, particularly during the first three months.

What are some good dietary sources of folate?

Foods that are high in folate or folic acid include:

  • Leafy greens like spinach, romaine lettuce, kale, and broccoli
  • Asparagus, which the National Health Institute says contains almost 100 mcg of folate in each serving
  • Fortified grains like cereals and pasta are enriched with high quantities of folic acid. In fact, the U.S Food and Drug Administration requires food manufacturers to supplement their grains with folic acid
  • Fruits like oranges, papayas, bananas and avocados
  • Soybeans, nuts and lentils frequently contain high concentrations of folate

Prenatal vitamins and folic acid supplements

Even if you feel like your diet is “perfect,” experts recommend a prenatal vitamin with folic acid or a separate folic acid supplement for all people who are trying to conceive or who are pregnant. The risk is simply too great to skip this one. The average recommendation is 400 mcg daily, but anyone who has a history of neural tube defects will need specific and personalized guidance from their medical team. Some vitamin manufacturers may use other components instead of folic acid. It’s important to know that folic acid is the ONLY component that has been shown to reduce the risk of neural tube defects and is the gold standard recommended by The Centers for Disease Control, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and more.

  • Sir John Dewhurst. Dewhurst’s Textbook of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 8th ed. Keith Edmonds. John Wiley and Sons Ltd, 2012. Print.
  • “Spina bifida Prevention.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 6/03/2016. Web.
  • Hannah Blencowe, Simon Cousens, Bernadette Modell and Joy Lawn. “Folic acid to reduce neonatal mortality from neural tube disorders.” International Journal of Epidemiology. 39 (suppl 1): i110-i121. Web. 2010.
  • “About Folic Acid,” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC,

Related Topics

Get the Ovia Pregnancy app
Get our app at the Apple App Store Get our app at the Apple App Store Get our app at the Google Play Store Get our app at the Google Play Store