Boost Your Future Bundle of Joy: The Power of Folic Acid Before Pregnancy

The moment you find out you’re expecting, your life changes in a blink of an eye. As a mother-to-be, you want nothing but the best for your baby. While your body works hard to provide a safe and nourishing environment, there’s something you can do to ensure a healthier outcome for your baby: taking folic acid supplements before and during pregnancy. But what exactly is folic acid and why is it so crucial to your baby’s health? In this article, we’ll dive deep into everything you need to know about folic acid and its importance for your baby’s overall development.

What is Folic Acid?

Folic acid, otherwise known as vitamin B9 or folate, is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a vital role in cell production. It’s particularly important during periods of rapid growth, such as pregnancy, infancy, and adolescence. Folic acid is essential for the synthesis of DNA, the formation of red blood cells, and proper functioning of the nervous system. Your body needs folic acid to maintain good health, but it can’t produce the nutrient on its own. That’s why you must obtain it through your diet or by taking supplements.

Folic Acid and Pregnancy

During pregnancy, your body’s demand for folic acid increases significantly to support the rapid growth and development of your baby. A deficiency of folic acid during pregnancy can lead to various complications, such as:

  • Neural tube defects (NTDs): These are severe birth defects affecting the brain and spinal cord. The most common NTDs are spina bifida (a condition where the spinal cord doesn’t close properly) and anencephaly (a condition where parts of the brain and skull are missing).

  • Low birth weight: Research conducted at the University of Birmingham in England highlights that women who take folic acid before conceiving have a lower risk of giving birth to small babies. A baby born small for its gestational age is more likely to suffer from health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and mental health difficulties later in life.

While more studies are needed to comprehend the exact mechanism behind folic acid’s role in improving birth outcomes, it’s clear that the nutrient has a significant impact.

How Much Folic Acid Do You Need?

It’s recommended that women of childbearing age consume at least 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid per day. The need for folic acid increases to 600 mcg per day during pregnancy and 500 mcg per day during breastfeeding. Since folic acid plays a crucial role in the early development of the neural tube (which occurs within the first 28 days of pregnancy), it’s essential to start taking the supplements before you even realize you’re pregnant.

Some women, such as those with a history of NTDs in previous pregnancies, a family history of NTDs, or certain medical conditions, may require a higher dose of folic acid. It’s essential to discuss your individual needs with your healthcare provider.

Sources of Folic Acid

Folic acid is found naturally in various foods, such as:

  • Leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale)
  • Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits)
  • Beans and legumes (lentils, chickpeas)
  • Whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat pasta)
  • Nuts and seeds (sunflower seeds, walnuts)

In addition to including these foods in your diet, it’s important to take a folic acid supplement, as it can be challenging to obtain the required amount of folic acid from food alone. Most prenatal vitamins contain folic acid, but you can also find standalone folic acid supplements.

When to Start Taking Folic Acid

If you’re planning to conceive or are already pregnant, it’s never too late to start taking folic acid supplements. Ideally, you should begin taking folic acid at least one month before conception and continue throughout the entire pregnancy.

It’s important to note that folic acid supplements do not replace the need for a healthy diet. While supplements are crucial in supplying the required amount of folic acid during pregnancy, a well-balanced diet rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals is essential for both you and your baby’s overall health.


Folic acid plays a crucial role in ensuring a healthy, thriving baby. By taking folic acid supplements before and during pregnancy, you’re giving your baby the best possible start in life. Not only can it help prevent potential birth defects, but it also contributes to a healthier baby. So, whether you’re actively trying to conceive or just thinking about it, make a point of discussing folic acid supplementation with your healthcare provider and take the necessary steps to ensure your baby’s wellbeing. Motherhood is a journey of love and new discoveries, and it all starts with something as simple as folic acid.