Women Need 400 micrograms of Folic Acid Every Day
CDC urges every woman who could become pregnant to get 400 micrograms (400 mcg) of folic acid every day.
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.
How Much Folic Acid Is Needed To Prevent Neural Tube Defects?
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.
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. Most vitamins sold in the United States have the recommended daily amount of folic acid (400 mcg) that women need to prevent neural tube defects. Vitamins can be found at most local pharmacy, grocery, or discount stores.
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 folic acid is to eat enough breakfast cereal that has been enriched with folic acid every day. Amounts of folic acid in cereals vary, so be sure to check the label on the side of the box to make sure you’re getting an adequate amount.
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 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.
If taking folic acid for reasons other than neural tube defect prevention, talk to your healthcare provider.
- Learn More About Folic Acid (available in English or Spanish)
- Preview and Order Folic Acid Educational Materials (available in English and in Spanish)
- Folic Acid: Helping to Ensure a Healthy Pregnancy (audio podcast in English or Spanish) (5:00 mins)
- CDC Pregnancy Information