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Folic acid for women who may become pregnant or in early pregnancy - QandA and helpful links

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 This is a short Q&A on Folic Acid

What is folic acid?

Folic acid (known as folate in its natural form) is part of the vitamin B complex.


What food is it in?

Foods rich in folic acid are, for example, fortified breakfast cereals and yeast extract and foods and drinks rich in folate are, for example, green leafy vegetables, peas and beans and orange juice.


Why should I take it?

Folic acid helps reduce the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect (for example, anencephaly and spina bifida) by taking folic acid supplements. Folic acid cannot be stored in your body, so you need it in your diet every day.


What will my GP, midwife or health visitor advise?

Your healthcare professional is likely to advise you to take 400 micrograms (μg) daily before pregnancy and throughout the first 12 weeks, even if you are already eating foods fortified with folic acid or rich in folate. One daily tablet contains exactly the amount of folic acid that you need.


This is available for eligible women in the maternal Healthy Start vitamin supplements (which contain folic acid as well as vitamins C and D). Women not eligible for Healthy Start can obtain the folic acid from their local pharmacy.


The dosage might be different if you have a history of neural tube defect. In this case your GP should prescribe 5 milligrams of folic acid a day if you are planning a pregnancy, or are in the early stages of pregnancy, if you:

      • (or the baby’s father) have a neural tube defect
      • have had a previous baby with a neural tube defect
      • (or the baby’s father) have a family history of neural tube defects
      • have diabetes.


Further information is available at:

National Institute of Healthcare Excellence (NICE)

The Royal College of Midwives

NHS Choices

Healthy Start


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1 comment

  1. Comment by M. Smith posted on

    There is no mention of the requirement to receive a higher dose of Folic acid if you are epileptic.


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