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Folic Acid Helps Prevent Neural Tube Defects

Photo: A woman taking folic acid.What Is Folic Acid?

Folic acid is a B vitamin. Our bodies use it to make new cells. Everyone needs folic acid, but it is particularly important for women who can become pregnant! If a woman has enough folic acid in her body before she is pregnant, it can help prevent some major birth defects of the baby's brain and spine. These birth defects are called neural tube defects.

CDC and the US Public Health Service urge every woman who could become pregnant to consume 400 micrograms (400 mcg) of folic acid every day.

How can I get enough folic acid?

  • By taking a multivitamin or a small, single supplement of folic acid daily. Folic acid pills and most multivitamins sold in the United States have 100% of the daily value of folic acid; check the label to be sure. You have options! Multivitamins now come in chewable chocolate or fruit flavors, and large oval or smaller round pills. Many stores offer a single folic acid supplement for just pennies a day.

OR

  • Photo: Sample of Supplement Facts label
  • Eating a serving of breakfast cereal every day that has been enriched with 100% of the daily value of folic acid. Not every cereal has this amount however. Check the label on the side of the box, and look for one that has "100%" next to folic acid.

When should I start taking folic acid?

Neural tube birth defects of the brain and spine happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman finds out that she is pregnant. All women should get in the habit of taking folic acid daily even when they are not planning to get pregnant. For folic acid to help, you need to take it every day - start before you become pregnant and continue taking it during pregnancy.

How much do you know about folic acid? Take this quiz and find out!

More Information

National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities:


CDC works 24/7 saving lives and protecting people from health threats to have a more secure nation. A US federal agency, CDC helps make the healthy choice the easy choice by putting science and prevention into action. CDC works to help people live longer, healthier and more productive lives.

  • Page last reviewed: January 9, 2012
  • Page last updated: January 9, 2012
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
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