Folic Acid: An Essential Player in Pregnancy Nutrition

November 14, 2023

Written by Gia Eapen, MD

Medically reviewed by

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Key Points

  • Folic acid, a type of B vitamin, is crucial during pregnancy for the prevention of serious birth defects.
  • The optimal time to start taking folic acid supplements is at least one month before conception and should continue through the early months of pregnancy.
  • A significant number of women do not consume enough folic acid-rich foods or supplements.
  • A diet rich in foods high in folic acid, such as leafy green vegetables and fortified cereals, can contribute to the recommended daily intake.

Folic acid, an essential member of the vitamin B family, is the master architect of your body's cell production, influencing everything from your skin and hair to nails. It is especially critical during pregnancy, promoting the healthy development of your baby's brain and spine. For this reason, the CDC recommends all women of reproductive age to consume 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily.

To ensure you're meeting these nutritional requirements, consider booking an appointment through Fay.

Timing is Key: When and How Much Folic Acid to Take

With half of all pregnancies in the U.S. being unplanned, healthcare professionals advise all women capable of becoming pregnant to take daily folic acid supplements. The supplementation should ideally start at least one month before conception and continue through the first two to three months of pregnancy.

Clinical trials and studies have shown that a multivitamin containing 0.4 to 0.8 mg (400 to 800 µg) of folic acid can significantly decrease the risk of neural tube defects. However, it's important to note that a significant number of women in the U.S. do not consume enough folic acid-rich foods or supplements.

For a customized plan to incorporate folic acid into your diet effectively, schedule a consultation with a Registered Dietitian at Fay.

Beyond Supplements: Foods High in Folic Acid

In addition to supplements, you can boost your folic acid intake by incorporating certain foods into your diet. These include:

  1. Leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale
  2. Legumes such as lentils and black beans
  3. Fortified breakfast cereals
  4. Citrus fruits like oranges and strawberries

For a diet plan tailored to your unique nutritional requirements, book a personalized consultation at Fay.

Community Efforts and FDA Support

To promote the importance of folic acid in early pregnancy, the Community Preventive Services Task Force encourages community-wide education campaigns. Additionally, the FDA has approved the fortification of corn masa flour with folic acid, allowing manufacturers to voluntarily enhance the nutritional value of a common food item. To learn how to identify and choose these fortified foods during your grocery shopping, book a session with a Registered Dietitian through Fay.

Adequate intake of folic acid during pregnancy contributes significantly to the healthy development of your baby. By scheduling an appointment at Fay, you can take active steps to ensure that you're meeting your nutritional needs during this crucial time in your life. It's a worthwhile investment in your baby's future and your well-being.

The views expressed by authors and contributors of such content are not endorsed or approved by Fay and are intended for informational purposes only. The content is reviewed by Fay only to confirm educational value and audience interest. You are encouraged to discuss any questions that you may have about your health with a healthcare provider.


Fay Nutrition has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

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Gia Eapen, MD

Written by Gia Eapen, MD

Dr. Gia Eapen is a skilled Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN) physician at Case Western/MetroHealth. A Northwestern University alumna, she pursued her medical degree at the University of Vermont, fostering a deep understanding of women's health and reproductive medicine. She combines her comprehensive knowledge with a dedication to patient-centered care, embodying a commitment to enhancing healthcare standards in her field.


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