How to Take Folic Acid During Pregnancy: 3 Tips

20 June, 2020
Eating a diet rich in folic acid during pregnancy is the best way to prevent neural tube birth defects. Find out how you should take vitamin B9 during pregnancy in this article.

Doctors recommend that you start to take folic acid supplements as soon as you decide to become pregnant. Do you know how to take folic acid during pregnancy?

In this article we’ll give you the best tips for consuming folic acid during pregnancy. You can’t miss them! Remember that consuming folic acid is essential to decrease the risk of a neural tube defect.

Why take folic acid during pregnancy?

A pregnant woman making a salad.
Taking folic acid during pregnancy helps to prevent neural tube defects.

Folic acid is a vitamin that belongs to the B complex group, also known as vitamin B9, folate or folacin. It’s essential to:

  • Help the body break down, use, and create new proteins. To do this, it works together with vitamins C and B12.
  • Prevent anemia, by helping production of red blood cells.
  • Help produce DNA.
  • Prevent neural tube birth defects. These defects can occur in the brain, spine, or spinal cord.

The recommended daily intake prior to and during pregnancy is 400 mg. It’s extremely important that you follow the dose, since folic acid is vital for the proper development of the baby’s organs and tissues.

You should also read: 5 Ways To Increase Folic Acid Intake During Pregnancy

Tips for taking folic acid

1. Take folic acid supplements

Woman taking folic acid supplement during pregnancy.
Ask your doctor if you should take folic acid supplements when trying to get pregnant.

Go to the doctor and ask about the appropriate dose for folic acid supplements. Generally, they recommend a daily intake of 400 mg to 600 mg. Your doctor is the best person to tell you if you should supplement your diet and by how much.

Once you know the proper dose, remember to take folic acid at the same time each day. A routine is the best way to remember to take it. You can even set an alarm on your cellphone to remind you. Remember that if, for any reason, you missed a supplement, you shouldn’t take two pills to “compensate.”

Store your supplements in a cool, dark place, out of the reach of children. When you take it, accompany it with a glass of water. A lot of people take the pills with just a sip of water. We recommend drinking a full glass: it will help you swallow the pill and keep you hydrated.

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2. Include foods rich in folic acid in your diet

Foods rich in folic acid to eat during pregnancy.
In addition to supplements, you should make sure you get enough folic acid from your diet.

It’s undeniably important to take folic acid during pregnancy, which is why we recommend that you regularly consume foods rich in folates. Let’s take a look at some good options:

  • Green vegetables: we recommend spinach the most, since eating it provides 63% of your daily recommended amount.
  • Asparagus: Did you know that one cup provides 60% of the folic acid you need?
  • Legumes: Mainly lentils – half a cup will give you 50% of the vitamin B9 you need during pregnancy.
  • Avocado: Just half a cup of this fruit gives you 30% of your daily recommended amount.
  • Broccoli: Rich in fiber, vitamin C, calcium and of course, folic acid.

Note: When possible, eat raw food as cooking can affect the nutritional value of food.

3. Read the nutrition labels when you’re buying food

Woman reading product ingredients in grocery store.
Buy foods fortified with folic acid.

Today, many foods are fortified with folic acid. You can check their content by reading the labels. Among fortified foods, you will find breakfast cereals, flours, rice, pasta, and much more.

As we always say, consult your doctor before you start to take any medication, even if it’s only a vitamin. Keep in mind your doctor should adjust the dose according to your needs. Also, certain medications can interfere with the absorption of some vitamins and minerals.

 

  • Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. National Academies Press. Washington, DC, 1998. PMID: 23193625 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23193625.
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  • Talaulikar, V., & Arulkumaran, S. (2013). Folic acid in pregnancy. Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Reproductive Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ogrm.2013.06.007
  • Shaw GM, Schaffer D, Velie EM, Morland K, Harris JA (1995). “Periconceptional vitamin use, dietary folate, and the occurrence of neural tube defects”. Epidemiology 6 (3): 219-226. PMID 7619926
  • Fabbri, Adriana. Crosby, Guy. A review of the impact of preparation and cooking on the nutritional quality of vegetables and legumes. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878450X15000207