Folic acid factfile

Before women even know they’re pregnant, the baby’s brain, heart and spine have already begun to form.

The spine develops from a part of the embryo called the ‘neural tube.’ If it does not form properly, babies are born with ‘neural tube defects’ such as spina bifida (‘split spine’). Children with spina bifida may be unable to walk or take care of themselves.

Folic acid, one of the B vitamins, will help your baby’s spine to develop properly. It’s important to:

1. Eat more food containing folic acid.   Follow our tips below to keep your levels topped up.
2. Eat foods with added folic acid such as breakfast cereals.
3. Take a daily folic acid supplement designed for pregnant women.

How much do I need to take?

Take a daily tablet containing 400 micrograms (sometimes shown as 400 mcg or 0.4 mg) from the time you start trying for a baby and for the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy. This will make sure you have enough when your baby is developing most rapidly – even before you realise you’re pregnant.

Where can I get it?

You can get folic acid from chemists, health food shops and some supermarkets. If you get free prescriptions, ask your doctor for it. If you have had a previous pregnancy affected by spina bifida, or are taking medication for epilepsy, talk to your doctor as your needs may be different.

To top up your folic acid levels, eat these:

  • Brussel sprouts, spinach, asparagus, spring greens, broccoli, curly kale or beetroot; don't overcook as it destroys the folic acid.
  • Blackberries, raspberries and satsumas.
  • Black-eyed beans, brown rice.
  • Yeast and meat extract spread.Peanuts, hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts and sesame seeds. 
  • Bread and breakfast cereals often have added folic acid too; check the label.


I was taking well woman vitamins for about five months before I found out I was pregnant ( these contain the recommended amount of folic acid) and as soon as I found out I was pregnant I changed to pregnacare. I just lost my baby at 12 weeks to anencephaly, a neural tube defect that occurs in the first month of pregnancy. It's been very hard and although I will never know the reason why it happened folic acid is one of the things medically known to help prevent this, so I will now have to take it on prescription at a higher dose as my body obviously needs more than I was getting. I'm not trying to scare anyone who's worried because they haven't taken it as this is quite a rare condition, about 1 in1000 pregnancies are affected by it, but please take it if you can, and eat your greens, cereals and oranges as i wouldn't wish the heartbreak we went through on anyone.
am i entitled to folic acid on prescription-i have been having trouble even getting a gp appointment and receptionist says they only normally prescribe in the case of deficiency.she told me to wait for booking appt with midwife-until i pointed out that this would be too late for the effects on foetal development. i know that it wont break the bank from the pharmacy but we are self employed and on a limited budget,hence free prescriptions
I took it throughout my 1st pregnancy, my boy has not had any illness at all since he was born, I however was sick within 2 hours of taking the tablet every day... for my boy I would do it all again.. would do it all again as viruses and germs seem to bounce off him..
When to stop taking folic acid and is it really safe to take it throughout pregnancy? Confused...
hi not being funny how do they no it helps babies all they have done is research and i would never put that tablet in my mouth again.I had 2 very healthy boys without folic acid then when i started to take this during my 3rd pregnancy i lost my son and had to give birth to my still born angel at 21 weeks im not saying it was the folic acid just strange they might have done test but how do they no i was not allergic to anything in the tablet bring back the old midwives as these are all txt book learners you never heard of all this crap in the old days this is my forth pregnancy and refusin to take this and feel great as long as you are eating the right foods and keepin hydrated you should be ok they say it helps the spine i no 2 women that both took folic acid one baby came out with downs the other spina bifida so how the xxxx does it help yet im not critising those that do take this and all went well i suppose what im trying to say is go with ur instinct if you feel like its doing you good carry on but if that slightest feelin that you shouldnt take it creeps up listen to it .
As a guide, they say to take folic acid tablets as soon as you can, and can stop around 12 weeks however you don't have to if you don't want to, some midwives suggest taking them longer, if in doubt ask your own midwife as every pregnancy is different and there know more about your case, as for not eating peanuts, there is no evidence to suggest it makes a difference in pregnancy, nor drinking alcohol makes any difference, just make sure what ever you take is part of a healthy balanced life style and everything should be fine.
hey i am the same cant take tablets i got this in liquid form from my GP they werent happy as its very expensive but they had to give me it. It doesnt taste that bad either :) x
I'm 8 weeks pregnant and have been advised to take colic acid would my gp/nurse be able to give me injections for this as I can't swollow tablets?
Diabetics should be added to the list of people that may have different dosage requirements of folic acid. (500 micrograms not 400, and is usually only available via prescription).
Folic acid also makes me really ill, I am constantly retching & vomiting all day everyday, but afraid to stop taking it!
I took folic acid about 4 weeks before I got pregnant 0.4mg and my baby still got spina bifda sadly we lost him at 17 weeks I'm now pregnant again I've been prescribed 5mg which I started taking 3 months before getting pregnant.It so important to take folic acid its a vitamin that could safe you babies life
I was taking a Folic acid b vitamin tablet it made me so ill had to stop taking it. Has anyone else had the same problem?
Hiya hope this is helpful to people worried about folio acid and when to take it and how long to take it for.you can take folio acid throught your pregnancy and you take it as soon as you can. Pregnacare is a good supplement as it has all the other vitimins u will need and is safe to take through out the pregnancy x
I have been taking my folic acid tablets for bout 2 months before i found out i was pregnant i was going on by what the nurse told me to while i was at my last appointment and i am now 5 weeks and 6 days we found out Monday morning xxx
I have read every where to take folic acid for the 1st 12 weeks however I met my midwife for the first time yesterday and she said take it throughout. Confused.
Im 5 weeks and 5 days pregnant off to see my midwife for the 1st time , hope she gives me some FOLIC ACID Tablets !!
Can you carry on taking folic acid after 12 weeks?? I'm 13 weeks now n didn't find out til approx 9 weeks.. wish i hadn looked at this now.....eeeeeeekk!!!!!!xx
Is pregnacare a good supplement to take or is folic acid alone enough? I am confused
As far as I know youre only meant to have one supplement of folic acid a day..if in tablet form then to take one table and if one is missed then not to take two the following day. They do say eat plenty of veg to keep vitamins going though but folic acid is vitamin B and to contain more vitamin B its best to eat things like bread and cereal and spinach etc rather than have more than one supplement of folic acid.
I have been taking 3 tablets of the Folic acid PLUS at once with my breafast, is this harmful to the baby? It states you can take 3 times a day or all at once with a meal. Many thanks
i have changed to taking my folic acid tablets before bed as taking them in the morning is making my morning sickness worse...i have felt a huge difference in doing this as i did not want to miss out on taking the tablet x
i have been given some tablets called pregaday from my doctor these are suposed to be my folic acid tablets im 6weeks pregnant but it says on the leaflet of these not to take until after 13 weeks pregnants, im so confused because your suposed to aparently take your folic acid as soon as possible!! Help!!
NICE guidelines recommend anyone with BMI over 30 should be taking 5mg of folic acid - over 12x the amount stated above and found in pregnancy supplements. This has to be prescribed, as this strength is not available to buy. (ps I am a student midwife & came across this while studying obesity in pregnancy)
Ive been taking folic acid since the summer and i believe it helped increase my fertility , i was on depo injection for 3 yrs and was expecting it to take years to fall pregnant , but after just 8 months after stopping it i got pregnant , i think im around 6 wks very excited xxx
i started taking folic acid tablets at 10weeks is that ok?
very helpful, i am enjoying the tips.
Other Neural tube defects can be hydrocephalus(water on the brain) and anencephaly which is a cephalic disorder that results when the cephalic (head) end of the neural tube fails to close, usually between the 23rd and 26th day of pregnancy, resulting in the absence of a major portion of the brain, skull, and scalp. Information on anencepahly can be found at www.anencephaly.co.uk this website is dedicated to my daughter Brooke who died from having anencephaly.
I didn't find out I was pregnant until 12 weeks and I had a bad diet. When my son was born he had a lump on his spine and we later found out that he had a milder form of Spina Bifida. He now has bladder and bowel problems but he walks well. I am now taking a high dose of Folic acid in preparation for trying for baby number 2. Folic acid is very important and shouldn't be ignored.
it dosen't matter wen you start taking the flolic acid but the sooner the better. it's never too late.i'm seven weeks and just sarted taking.
i didnt find out was expecting till i was 11weeks (im very irregular) so i wasnt taken any folic acid until then...we found out then at our 20wk scan that our wee beautiful princess had very bad spina bifida...:( ...alhough i knw many women who havent taken any folic acid at all and had healthy preg we turn out to be that 1/1000 that our child did have SB...im currently taken the higer dose folic acid..spina bifida occurs in the usually around 2weeks after conception...so therefore recommended at least 3months before...but for women who havent babies are usually fine and beautiful...enjoy preg
hia, i'm 8 week pregnat and i havnt start taking any folic acid ye. i m quite worried now
Hi everyone! I'm 13 weeks pregnant and have been taking folic acid every day. do you need to continue taking it after 12 weeks or does it not make any difference after then? x
If you know your pregnant you should start taking them if you go to your GP they normally prescribe them although they dont completely eliminate the risks, they do reduce them by alot. Dont panic yourself too much, people have gone on to have healthy babies without taking them
i am 4 weeks pregnant do i start taking follic acid now?
Im 9 weeks pregnant and hasnt started taking folic acid as ive had to get my head around being pregnant and never really thought of them, i feel really bad for not been taking them is it to late to start now????
Just started taking FOLIC ACID at 6 weeks pregnant is this ok?? or am i just worrying over nothing...???
Im 6 weeks pregnant and just started taking folic acid,am worried i could be late taking them or is it just me being paranoid...
Marmite has folic acid in it so you either love it or hate it :)
If your diabetic then you need stronger dose of folic acid (as higher risk) which is only availible on perscription. don't let them tell you you don't need it like they did me the first time.
You can eat nuts just not by the kg!! They are very good for a developing baby in small amounts.
don't eat nuts?! Sorry, my auntie didn't eat nuts during her pregnancy, and my cousin is severly allergic to nuts anyway! Surely eating a food, and letting it go through the baby's system is going to make it less likely to be allergic to a food group, not avoiding it like the plague!
does anyone else struggle to keep folic acid tablets down? i had to stop taking mine because every time i did i threw up until my stomach was empty. i'm trying to eat the right types of foods but that isnt working either because i feel so sick. does anyone have any tips? Emz
If You Have Tablets Left After 12Weeks Do You Still Carry On Taking Them Or Do You Stop?? x
just over 1 1/2 cm
how big is the baby at 8 weks
is peanuts safe to eat in pregnacy?
dont eat nuts .. can cause the child to have a reaction to nuts when he/she is born x
brought a load of fruit in, i mean a lot as i am getting a taste for them and nothing i brought is on this list lol typical!
i've just brought davinas dvd pre and post pregnancy although shes maybe 6/7+ in this dvd i think its a good start, im also gona start body balance and yoga but have been advised not too start this till 2nd trimester.. so i asume too much exercise is not advised, swimming is fantastic tho. hope this helps
which exercise is suitable for 7 weeks pregnancy