Folic acid supplements are very important for women who are trying to conceive (ttc). But there’s lots of confusion about how much is enough and why it’s so valuable.
What we Know to be True
Folic acid is one of the B group vitamins which are found in green leafy vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and yeast extracts. Bread, cereals and orange juice are commonly fortified.
The average diet does not contain sufficient folate to cover the specific needs of pregnant women. Storing and cooking foods affects the amount of folate which they eventually contain, and even if your diet is exceptionally healthy it would be impossible to make an accurate assessment of how much you’re actually ingesting.
This is why folic acid supplements are recommended, both to ensure adequate coverage and because the evidence is so clear on the benefits.
Supplements are commonly available from pharmacies and supermarkets and often combined with iron.
The current recommendation by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is for women of child bearing age to take a daily supplement of 0.5 mgs for at least one month before conception and during the first trimester.
Taking supplements can prevent seven out of a possible ten cases of having a baby with a neural tube defect (NTD), such as spina bifida. Women who have already had a child with a neural tube defect, who have a family history of NTD or who are being treated for epilepsy require a higher dose.
Check with a pharmacist and your doctor about the dose that’s right for you.