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Folic Acid in Pregnancy: How Much Do You Need and When to Take It?


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Pregnancy is a highly sensitive phase in a woman’s life. Growing a new life inside them comes with many shifts in terms of nutritional needs. Folic acid plays a crucial role in supporting the pregnancy journey, especially when it comes to preventing neural tube defects in the baby.

Using folic acid during pregnancy is essential, especially because it supports the organ development of the growing fetus. Even studies highlight that starting folic acid consumption when trying for a baby can prevent the risks of several congenital disabilities in the baby after their delivery.

This article will explore everything you need to know about why folic acid in pregnancy is crucial and its correct dosage.

What is the Significance of Folic Acid in Pregnancy?

If you are unaware, folic acid is a type of Vitamin B that is available in abundance in most fortified foods and supplements that we take. It is a synthetic form of Vitamin B. It plays a significant role in generating new cells and DNA and the body’s normal growth and physical development.

However, studies suggest that folic acid plays a vital role throughout pregnancy and even before conception. Taking folic acid when trying for a baby ensures optimal organ development of the fetus that’s conceived.

Taking the prescribed dosage of folic acid during pregnancy prevents the risks of several congenital disabilities like:

  • Spina bifida
  • Encephalocele
  • Anencephaly

Since neural tube defects result in fatal and severe outcomes, being mindful of folic acid supplements during pregnancy is crucial.

What are the Benefits of Folic Acid in Pregnancy?

The uses of folic acid in pregnancy are quite diverse, especially in the baby’s development in the womb. Since folic acid is responsible for producing new cells, including red blood cells, the lack of it often contributes to a condition called folate-deficiency anemia in the developing fetus.

Besides the normal consumption of folate or folic acid during normal life, its dosage is generally enhanced throughout the pregnancy term.

Some of the potent benefits of folic acid include:

As more researches are underway, more and more benefits concerning folic acid and pregnancy are coming to the foreground.

How much Folic Acid should you take throughout Pregnancy?

Neural tube defects, which are heavily influenced by the presence of folic acid in the bloodstream, occur in the first month of pregnancy. Since most women don’t even realize they are pregnant early on, it isn’t surprising that your doctors will suggest you start taking folic acid right when planning for a baby.

This is more of a protective measure than a preventive measure. Even if you don’t get pregnant while actively trying, the excess folic acid won’t negatively impact the body’s physiological functions.

So, it’s always better to be safe than sorry when trying for a baby.

Coming to the optimal dosage, every pregnant woman should take 600 mcg of folic acid daily. However, when trying for a baby, the dosage should be 400 mg per day.

Women who have given birth to a baby with neural tube defects might have to take a higher dosage of folic acid for their next pregnancy. This should be discussed with the OBGYN that you consult for your pregnancy and delivery.

The dosage of folic acid during pregnancy might increase in women with:

  • Kidney disease or undergoing dialysis
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Liver disease
  • Past history of alcoholism
  • On certain medications for type-2 diabetes, epilepsy, psoriasis, lupus, inflammatory bowel syndrome, etc.

Taking the correct dosage of folic acid is crucial to the overall health of the mother and the baby throughout the pregnancy.

When Is the Right Time to Take It?

Folic acid supplements or medications are water-soluble, meaning you need to take them daily for the best results. Some of these supplements are metabolized very quickly in the body.

There are no time-bound restrictions when you need to take the folic acid supplement. You don’t need to take it after your meals or before your meals, or at a specific time of the day.

However, since taking it every day is crucial, taking the folic acid supplement at a designated time prevents you from missing out on taking it.

Ideally, we’d recommend taking it with your breakfast each morning. Taking the optimal dosage of folic acid in pregnancy should be your priority over the time when you take it.

How Much Is Too Much?

It is a very common misconception that taking high doses of folic acid will permanently eliminate certain pregnancy risks.

Knowing how much folic acid to take in pregnancy is ideal because excess folic acid consumption will conceal the risks of Vitamin B12 deficiency in the body.

Can I get Folic Acid from Natural Food Sources?

As we mentioned, folic acid is a synthetic form of naturally occurring Vitamin B or folate. So, when it comes to getting it from natural food sources, keep in mind that foods are sources of folate and not folic acid.

However, their functions are similar, so that you can include a few different types of foods for an extra boost of folate in the body.

These include:

  • Banana
  • Spinach
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Orange juice
  • Asparagus
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Fortified cereals

However, simply eating foods for folic acid isn’t enough during pregnancy. Supplementation is necessary as per the optimal dosage your OBGYN prescribes.


When To Stop Folic Acid in Pregnancy?

Ideally, folic acid supplementation is prescribed until 12 weeks of pregnancy, following which it is safe to stop. However, your doctor will assess your needs and adjust the term of consumption depending on your needs.

Is 8 weeks too late to Start Folic Acid Supplementation?

One of the major benefits of folic acid in pregnancy is to prevent neural tube defects. The risk of the same is in the first month of gestation. However, if you got pregnant accidentally, your doctor will immediately put you on a folic acid supplement till the third month of pregnancy for safe measures.

Does Folic Acid Impact Fertility?

Folic acid might support and regulate the possibility of getting pregnant. However, we recommend you discuss any additional complications with your doctor before reaching conclusions.


Folic acid is a quintessential part of prenatal vitamins. If you are actively trying for a baby or are pregnant, taking the right dosage of folic acid is necessary. We hope this article provides you with a holistic understanding of this essential vitamin and how it influences the development of the fetus in the womb. 

Somapika Dutta (B.Sc Physiology, Honours)
Somapikar holds Bachelors Degree in Physiology from University of Culcutta. She has 6+ years of experience writing in different niches, including health, tech and lifestyle. An animal enthusiast and a raging foodie, experiencing life - one day at a time.


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