How much folic acid do I need?

KEY POINTS

  • Taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy can help prevent neural tube defects in your baby. 

  • Before pregnancy, take a vitamin supplement that has 400 micrograms of folic acid in it every day. 

  • During pregnancy, take a prenatal vitamin that has 600 micrograms of folic acid in it every day. 

  • Take a vitamin supplement with folic acid every day, even if you’re not trying to get pregnant. 

Folic acid is a B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for normal growth and development. Taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects (also called NTDs). NTDs happen in the first month of pregnancy, before you may know that you’re pregnant. This is why it’s important to have enough folic acid in your body before you get pregnant.

Later in pregnancy, folic acid helps your baby grow and develop. Folic acid may also help prevent heart defects and birth defects in the mouth called cleft lip and palate.

How much folic acid should I take?

  • Before pregnancy take a vitamin supplement with 400 mcg of folic acid every day.   
  • Take a vitamin supplement with 400 mcg of folic acid each day, even if you’re not trying to get pregnant.
  • During pregnancy, take a prenatal vitamin each day that has 600 mcg of folic acid in it.

To see how to check a product label for how much folic acid is in it, click here.

Women at high risk for NTDs

If you’re at high risk for having a baby with an NTD, talk to your provider about how you can safely take 4,000 mcg of folic acid each day to help prevent an NTD. Start taking 4,000 mcg 3 months before you get pregnant through 12 weeks of pregnancy. You’re at high risk if:

  • You’ve had a pregnancy with an NTD in the past.
  • You or your partner has an NTD.
  • Your partner has a child with an NTD.

Don’t take several multivitamins or prenatal vitamins. You can get too much of other nutrients, which may be harmful to your health. Your provider can help you figure out the best and safest way for you to get the right amount of folic acid.