Folic acid is a B vitamin that helps the body to make healthy new cells and can be found in the following food:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Dried beans, peas, and nuts
- Enriched breads, cereals and other grain products
Everyone needs folic acid and should be taken every day because it is water soluble. Your body metabolizes (uses) folic acid quickly, so your body needs folic acid each day to work properly. To ensure you are getting the amount that you need, you can take it as a dietary supplement.
Why do women need folic acid?
- Keeping the blood healthy by helping red blood cells form and grow. Insufficiency of folic acid may lead to a type of anemia called folate-deficiency anemia. It is more common in women than in men.
- Before and during pregnancy. Folic acid might help prevent early pregnancy loss (miscarriage) and birth defects. A serious birth defects called neural tube defects can happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy or often before a woman knows she is pregnant.
Neural tube defects can affect the spine, spinal cord, or brain and may cause death. These include:
- Spina bifida. This condition happens when an unborn baby’s spinal cord is exposed or not fully closed during development in the womb. As a result, the nerves that control the legs and other organs do not work. Children with spina bifida need many surgeries and often have lifelong disabilities.
- Anencephaly. In this case, all of the brain and skull does not develop in the womb. Almost all babies with this condition die before or soon after birth.
What should I look for when buying vitamins with folic acid?
When choosing vitamins, look for “USP” or “NSF” on the label. These “seals of approval” mean the pills are made properly and have the same amount as the label suggest. Make sure the pills have not expired. Do not buy bottles that has no expiration date.
Seek the advice of your pharmacist when selecting a vitamin or folic acid-only pill. Pregnant women must take a daily prenatal vitamin. Check the label to be sure.