Folic Acid During Pregnancy: Dose, Importance, Food Sources

Dr. Rita Goel

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Rita Goel

Gynaecologist and Obstetrician

8 min read

Key Takeaways

  • There are many benefits of taking folic acid while pregnant
  • Folic acid prevents neural tube defects in the growing fetus
  • Taking folate during pregnancy reduces homocysteine levels

Like various other nutrients, folic acid is the vitamin B found in supplements and foods. When it occurs in foods, it is called folate. If found in supplements, it is known as folic acid. Folate plays an important role in the body, especially before and during pregnancy. Folic acid is key for normal growth and development. The main function of folic acid is to synthesize new cells and produce DNA. The role of folic acid in pregnancy is also vital as it handles the proper development of organs in a fetus.

Getting enough folic acid during pregnancy can prevent neural and spinal birth defects. According to the CDC, the folic acid requirement in pregnancy is 400mcg on a daily basis. To know more about the connection between folate and pregnancy, read on. 

What Is Folic Acid?

A folic acid is a man-made form of Vitamin B folate. Folate is required for red blood cell production and your child's neural tube advancement towards their central nervous system. The best sources of folic acid are fortified cereals. In addition, dark green veggies and citrus fruits are good sources of folate. Some recommend using folic acid in pregnancy to develop the baby's brain better.

Additional Read: Homemade Tests to Check Pregnancy At HomeHomemade Tests to Check Pregnancy At Home

Benefits Of Folic Acid During Pregnancy

Your baby's neural tube may not shut properly, and they might experience health issues known as neural tube abnormalities if you don't have enough folic acid in your body. These consist of:

  • Incomplete growth of the spinal cord or of the vertebrae is known as spina bifida
  • Anencephaly is a condition in which the primary brain regions have not fully developed

The lifespan of anencephalic infants is often short, and spina bifida can result in lifelong disabilities. These issues are, to put it mildly, frightening. The good news is that taking adequate folic acid may at least 50% reduce your baby's risk of neural tube abnormalities.

Getting enough folic acid tablets for pregnancy may lower your chance of having another kid with a neural tube defect by as much as 70% if you've already had a baby with one, according to the CDC. It is advised that you take 4000 mcg (equivalent to 4 mg) of folic acid daily if you have ever had a kid with a neural tube defect. Consult your doctor for the exact amount of folic acid intake.

Use Of Folic Acid In Pregnancy

Besides getting the right folic acid dose in pregnancy, there are many other uses. Primarily, it forms red blood cells in your body. Also, it:   

  • minimizes the side effects of certain medications  
  • prevents anemia caused due to its deficiency 
  • helps in the development of your baby’s spinal cord, skull, and brain 
  • minimizes high homocysteine levels in your blood

If your homocysteine levels are high, it can cause damage to the lining of your arteries. Severe blood clots may occur that can result in blood vessel blockage.

Folic Acid Importance During Pregnancy

Folic acid is a B vitamin that is present in a variety of supplements and fortified meals. It is a man-made version of folate. Your body uses folic acid to create new cells and DNA. It is necessary for appropriate development and growth throughout your life.

Folic acid supplementation is especially important before and throughout pregnancy. It is necessary for a developing baby's organ development.

Taking folic acid tablets before pregnancy may help prevent birth defects such as spina bifida, encephalocele (rarely), and anencephaly.

Folic Acid Pregnancy Dose

The daily recommended folate intake for all women of reproductive age is 400 mcg. If you use a multivitamin on a daily basis, be sure it has the required quantity. If you don't want to take a multivitamin, you can use folic acid pills instead.

In terms of folic acid for pregnancy, the following amount of folic acid pregnancy dose is suggested per day:

  • 400 mcg of folic acid to become pregnant
  • 400 mcg every three months throughout the first three months of pregnancy
  • 600 mcg of folic acid during pregnancy (during months four through nine of pregnancy)
  • 500 mcg when nursing

Who Should Take Folic Acid And Why?

Women of reproductive age should get enough folic acid. Ideally, women should consume folic acid daily. This is irrespective of whether you choose to get pregnant or not, as it can help produce new cells. Neural tube defects in the fetus occur at an early developmental stage. Even before you realize that you are pregnant. Having folic acid supplements regularly can minimize the risk for neural defects in an unplanned pregnancy.

Since it is soluble in water, the body is able to metabolize it quickly. You can consume folate during pregnancy at any time of the day. Make it a habit to take it every morning. Always consult a gynecologist before taking any vitamins. A high dose of folic acid is recommended for women who have delivered kids with neural tube defects in their previous pregnancies. Other risk factors, where a higher dose is needed, are if: 

  • you have diabetes 
  • your body is unable to absorb nutrients 
  • the neural tube defect problems run in the family 
  • your BMI level exceeds 30
  • you or your partner are suffering from neural tube defects
food sources of folic acid

What Happens If There Is a Folate Deficiency?

If there is a folate deficiency, it means your blood has lower amounts of folic acid in it. A folate deficiency can cause anencephaly and spina bifida in the baby. These birth defects cause major developmental problems in children.

Anencephaly is a condition where a baby is born without major brain parts. Proper formation and closure of neural tube help in the proper development of the skull and brain. Spina bifida is another neural defect problem, where the spine of a baby is not developed properly. As a result, the child may be disabled and unable to use certain limbs.

Folate deficiency occurs if

  • you are suffering from conditions that affect the absorption of folic acid 
  • you consume excess alcohol
  • you eat overcooked vegetables
  • you have an unhealthy diet
  • you have undergone kidney dialysis
Additional Read: Hormone Tests for Females

There are many benefits of taking this prenatal vitamin. Consuming folic acid before or during pregnancy protects the fetus from

  • low birth weight problems 
  • premature birth
  • poor growth and development 
  • miscarriage
  • conditions like cleft palate and lip

In fact, folic acid helps reduce the risks of several complications such as

Food Sources of Folic Acid

You may increase your folic acid intake with the following foods and folic acid pregnancy dose as follows:

  • Breakfast cereals enriched with 400 mcg, or 100% of the DV 3/4 cup
  • Beef liver, cooked and braised, three oz., 215 mcg
  • 179 mcg: Cooked, boiling, ripe lentil seeds. 1/2 cup
  • 115 mcg: Frozen, cooked, and boiling spinach 1/2 cup
  • 110 mcg: Cooked, enhanced egg noodles 1/2 cup
  • Breakfast cereals enriched with 25% of the DV at 100 mcg 3/4 cup
  • Cooked Great Northern beans, 1/2 cup, 90 mcg

When you are trying to conceive you may need 600mcg of this vitamin. Ideally, this is prescribed from your fourth to the ninth month of pregnancy.

Now that you are aware of the importance of folic acid during pregnancy, it is essential to consume foods rich in it. Taking folate supplements before pregnancy is equally important to prevent birth defects in your baby. Consult a gynecologist when you are planning to conceive for more information. Connect with leading doctors easily on Bajaj Finserv Health. Book an online doctor consultation to address your doubts and concerns from the comfort of your home. Get the right medical care on time to enjoy your pregnancy journey! 


Which folic acid is best during pregnancy?

It is important to take a 400 microgram folate pill every day before getting pregnant and until you are 12 weeks along. Folic acid can help prevent spina bifida as well as other neural tube problems, such as birth disorders.

Does taking folic acid help you get pregnant?

Female fertility can be significantly impacted by folic acid during conception. Folic acid can help avoid early pregnancy problems that can result in miscarriage for women who are having trouble getting pregnant. 

Can folic acid prevent miscarriages?

The risk for miscarriage was not higher or lower among women who took folic acid supplements before and during early pregnancy than among those who did not. Similar gestational ages were identified in both groups of women for both the diagnosis of pregnancy and the occurrence of losses.

What are the three benefits of folic acid?

Here are few benefits of folic acid for pregnant women

  • Avoiding birth abnormalities related to the neural tube
  • Treatment and prevention of anemia
  • Preventing methotrexate adverse effects from occurring

In which month of pregnancy is folic acid required?

It is essential to take a 400-microgram folic acid supplement daily before getting pregnant and up until you are 12 weeks along. Folic acid can prevent neural tube issues such as birth abnormalities and spina bifida.

What are the side effects of folic acid?

A few noticeable side effects of folic acid are

  • Skin rash that may seem like peeling, blistering, itchy, red, or swollen 
  • Blistered skin
  • Coughing
  • Throat or chest discomfort
  • Difficulty speaking or breathing
Published on 15 Nov 2021Last updated on 13 Apr 2023

Please note that this article is solely meant for informational purposes and Bajaj Finserv Health Limited (“BFHL”) does not shoulder any responsibility of the views/advice/information expressed/given by the writer/reviewer/originator. This article should not be considered as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your trusted physician/qualified healthcare professional to evaluate your medical condition. The above article has been reviewed by a qualified doctor and BFHL is not responsible for any damages for any information or services provided by any third party.

Dr. Rita Goel

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Rita Goel

, MBBS 1 , MD - Obstetrics and Gynaecology 3

Dr Rita Goel is a consultant gynecologist, Obstetrician and infertility specialist with an experience of over 30 years. Her outstanding guidance and counselling to patients and infertile couples helps them to access the best treatment possible. She addresses problemsof adolescents and teens especially PCOS and obesity. Besides being a renowned gynaecologist she also has an intense desire and passion to serve the survivors of emotional abuse and is also pursuing a Counselling and Family Therapy course from IGNOU. She helps patients deal with abuse recovery besides listening intently to their story.


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