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Folic Acid for Pregnancy: Do I Really Need it?

With all the appointments and tests that occur during pregnancy, it’s hard to keep track of everything and easy to question, “Is all of this really necessary?” One question that patients have asked me is “Do I Really Need Folic Acid for Pregnancy?”

The answer is YES! Folic acid is a B vitamin that is particularly important during pregnancy. It helps prevent fetal defects of the brain, spine, & spinal cord (collectively referred to as neural tube defects).

Most sources recommend that all women of childbearing age should be taking a folic acid supplement or at least 3 months prior to trying to conceive. The recommended dose of folic acid is 0.4mg daily. There are certain people such as individuals with diabetes, those with a family history of neural tube defects, and women on anti-seizure medications who may require higher doses (5mg) folic acid at least 2 months prior to conceiving and during the first trimester.

Personally, I took folic acid one year prior to trying to conceive. I took a prenatal vitamin that contained 0.4mg of folic acid. I have always been bad at remembering to take medications and one way I remembered to take my folic acid was by putting it on my bedside table, so I would remember to take it before I went to bed.

This post was co-authored by Megan Crosby, Medical Student, University of Alberta and Stephanie Liu, MD, MSc, CCFP, BHSc.

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