Folic acid is essential for everyone, but it’s particularly important for women of childbearing age. It’s a form of folate, which is a B vitamin. Folic acid plays a vital role in the production of new red blood cells. When a person doesn’t get enough folic acid, it’s possible to develop folate-deficiency anemia. Here at Good Samaritan Hospital, our doctors and nurses look forward to meeting you and answering your questions about your nutrition. Women who are pregnant can work with our maternity specialists to create a healthy nutrition plan.
The role of folic acid in health
Red blood cells transport oxygen throughout the body. Without enough folic acid and folate, the body may not produce enough new red blood cells. As a result, it’s possible to develop anemia, which causes symptoms like chronic fatigue and weakness.
Folic acid is perhaps best known for its role in preventing birth defects. Maternity experts strongly recommend folic acid supplements to women who are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant. This B vitamin substantially reduces the risk of neural tube birth defects, including spina bifida and anencephaly.
The women who need folic acid supplements
Compared to men, women of childbearing age are more likely to develop folate-deficiency anemia. It’s possible to get enough folic acid through food alone, but your doctor may recommend supplementation if you’re deficient. Supplementation is also recommended for women who are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant.
Additionally, because of the risk of neural tube defects, doctors recommend folic acid to all women of childbearing age, even if they aren’t trying to conceive. Roughly half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and a fetus needs folic acid during the crucial early weeks of pregnancy—before most women realize they’re pregnant.
The recommended amount of folic acid
In general, women need at least 400 micrograms of folic acid each day , according to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health. Women who might be pregnant or could get pregnant need between 400 and 800 micrograms daily.
For certain women who want to get pregnant, a doctor might recommend an unusually large dose of folic acid. This may be appropriate for some women who:
- Have previously had a baby with a neural tube defect
- Have a family member with spina bifida
- Have spina bifida
Only a healthcare provider can give you the personalized recommendations that are appropriate for you.
Family Birthing Center at Good Samaritan Hospital brings together a team of compassionate maternity specialists who genuinely care about each of our patients and their families. If you’re expecting, we invite you to take a tour of our maternity wing, including our spacious and comfortable labor and delivery suites. Call a registered nurse at (888) 724-2362 to request a referral.