CDC urges every woman who could become pregnant to get 400 micrograms (400 mcg) of folic acid every day.
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Make it easy to remember. Try taking a vitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid:
- When you brush your teeth, OR
- With your breakfast, OR
- After your shower, OR
- When you brush your hair, OR
- If you have children, take your vitamin when they take theirs.
- Seeing the vitamin bottle on the bathroom or kitchen counter can help you remember it, too.
The B vitamin folic acid helps prevent birth defects. If a woman has enough folic acid in her body before and while she is pregnant, her baby is less likely to have a major birth defect of the brain or spine.
What Is Folic Acid?
Folic acid is a B vitamin. Our bodies use it to make new cells. Everyone needs folic acid. But for women who can get pregnant, it is really important! If a woman has enough folic acid in her body before she is pregnant, it can help prevent major birth defects of her baby's brain and spine. These birth defects are neural tube defects or NTDs. Women need to take folic acid every day, starting before they are pregnant to help prevent NTDs.
CDC and the US Public Health Service urge every woman who could become pregnant to get 400 micrograms (400 mcg) of synthetic folic acid every day.
How Much Is Enough? Look for 100% Daily Value (DV)
One easy way a woman can be sure she is getting enough folic acid is to take a vitamin that has folic acid in it every day. Folic acid pills and most multivitamins sold in the United States have 100% of the daily value (DV) of folic acid; check the label to be sure.
You can get your vitamin with folic acid in one of several ways. You can take a multivitamin or a small, single supplement of folic acid. These days, multivitamins with folic acid come in chewable chocolate or fruit flavors, liquids, and large oval or smaller round pills. Many stores offer a single folic acid supplement for just pennies a day.
Another good choice is a store brand multivitamin, which includes most of the vitamins you need each day. Unless your doctor suggests a special type, you do not need to choose among vitamins for women or active people, or one for people who are on a low carbohydrate diet. A basic multivitamin meets the needs of most women.
Another way to get enough is to eat 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. Check the label on the side of the box, and look for one that has "100%" next to folic acid.
When Should a Woman Start Taking Folic Acid?
These 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, a woman needs to take it every day, starting before she becomes pregnant.
Folic Acid: All Women, Every Day
You might think that you can get all the folic acid and other vitamins you need from the food you eat each day. But it is hard to eat a diet that has all the nutrients you need every day. Even with careful planning, you might not get all the vitamins you need from your diet alone. That's why it's important to take a vitamin with folic acid every day.
Today's woman is busy! You know that you should exercise, eat right, and get enough sleep. You might wonder how you can fit another thing into your day. But it only takes a few seconds to take a vitamin to get all the folic acid you need!
How much do you know about folic acid? Take this quiz and find out!