Living Well

Folic acid: from Preconception to Pregnancy

Arelis Figueroa, M.D.
Folic acid: from Preconception to Pregnancy

What is Folic Acid?

Folic acid, folate, or vitamin B9, is a water-soluble vitamin. It plays an important part in cell division, in the creation of cells in the blood-forming organs and bone marrow, and in the proper development of the fetal spinal cord during pregnancy. Like the other B vitamins, folic acid plays an important role in energy production.

Why is Folic Acid important during Pregnancy?

The U.S. Public Health Service recommends that all women of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) of folic acid each day. Folic acid, a nutrient found in some green leafy vegetables, most berries, nuts, beans, citrus fruits, fortified breakfast cereals, and some vitamin supplements can help reduce the risk for birth defects of the brain and spinal cord (called neural tube defects). This can lead to varying degrees of paralysis, incontinence, and sometimes intellectual disability.

Folic acid is most helpful during the first 28 days after conception. This is when most neural tube defects happen. Unfortunately, many women do not realize they are pregnant before 28 days. Therefore, folic acid intake should begin before conception and continue through pregnancy. Your healthcare provider or midwife will recommend the appropriate amount of folic acid to meet your individual needs.

Most healthcare providers or midwives will prescribe a prenatal supplement before conception, or shortly afterward, to make sure that all of the woman’s nutritional needs are met. However, a prenatal supplement does not replace a healthy diet.

What are the sources for folic acid?

Folate happens naturally in many foods, like dark, leafy green vegetables, legumes (dried beans and peas), and fruits (oranges, bananas, melons, and most berries. But often it’s not enough. To help women get the amount they need, the FDA requires folic acid to be added to enriched breads, breakfast cereals, pastas, rice, and other grains.

Here are some foods that are recommended sources of folic acid:

  • fortified grains
  • spinach
  • lentils
  • chickpeas
  • asparagus
  • broccoli
  • peas
  • brussel sprouts
  • corn
  • oranges

folic acid foods

Making sure you get enough folic acid every day from food is a challenge. That’s why physicians recommend you take a multivitamin with folic acid to ensure you get the amount you and your baby need.

Talk to your doctor or midwife to determine your specific nutritional and supplement needs base on your medical history

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Figueroa to learn more about folic acid and pregnancy, please call 504.455.0004.

Office Locations:

4740 South I-10 service Road West, Suite 340, Metairie, LA 70001 (Monday – Thursday)

3434 Prytania Street (Buckman Building), Suite 450, New Orleans, LA 70115 (Friday)

Figueroa,ArelisDr. Arelis Figueroa, a Crescent City Physicians obstetrician and gynecologist, supports her patients through pregnancy and beyond, helping new moms establish healthy practices that benefit their families. A native of Puerto Rico, she speaks Spanish and English, working with patients whose language barriers might have otherwise kept them from getting care.