Women of Childbearing Age

All women of childbearing age, whether they are teenagers or adult women in their forties, need 400 micrograms of folic acid every day for good health. Folate is needed for new and developing cells no matter your age. You are continually making new cells like skin, blood, hair, gut and other cells.

Benefits for Pregnancy

It is important for women to have adequate folic acid intake before a pregnancy. Folic acid has been shown to greatly reduce the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect (NTD), a serious defect of the brain and spine.

The development of the neural tube that becomes the baby's brain and spine happens in the first 4 weeks of pregnancy, a time when many women do not even know they are pregnant.

  • Up to 70 percent of NTDs may be prevented if all women who can become pregnant consume 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before and during early pregnancy.
  • About 95% of children with an NTD are born to couples with no family history of these defects.
  • Research has shown that having adequate folic acid intake during pregnancy also has been associated with a reduced risk for other birth defects such as heart defects, cleft lip, cleft palate, and defects of the urinary tract and limbs.
  • If you have previously had a baby affected by a NTD, you may need to take 4000 micrograms (4 milligrams) of folic acid every day because you are at higher risk for having another baby with an NTD. You should discuss this with your doctor if you are planning a pregnancy.

If you are currently planning a pregnancy or trying to become pregnant, it is important for you to get enough folic acid now! Remember, about half of all pregnancies are unplanned.

  • You may not be planning a pregnancy, but it can happen.
  • It is most important to have folic acid in your system before and early in pregnancy.
  • The recommended daily intake is 400 micrograms of folic acid.
  • Take folic acid every day so you'll have the amount you need should you unexpectedly get pregnant.


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Taking folic acid every day may reduce the risk of having a baby with certain birth defects and may have other health benefits for women.

Taking folic acid every day is an inexpensive, easy, and effective way for women to increase their chances of someday having a healthy baby.

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