It is never too early to start taking folic acid, even before you plan to conceive. Taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid is advised years before conceiving. One study showed that women who took folic acid for at least a year before getting pregnant, cut their chances of delivering early by 50% or more.
Folic acid is a B vitamin. It plays an important role in the production of red blood cells and helps your baby’s neural tube develop into his/her brain and spinal cord. The neural tube begins to form about three weeks after conception, so it’s critical to get a sufficient daily dose of folic acid before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy. Experts recommend that you take 400 micrograms of folic acid per day to reduce your baby’s risk of developing a neural tube defect.
Even if you are expecting multiples, unless your physician advises otherwise, you should take the standard recommended 400 mcg of folic acid daily for the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy.
Spinal bifida is one of the risks from the absence of folic acid. Spinal bifida is a birth defect in which the spinal cord is exposed. This can happen to anyone. But, the risk can be reduced with the daily intake of folic acid prior to pregnancy. Anencephaly, the severe underdevelopment of the brain, is another risk that can also be reduced.
Folic acid is not just in vitamins. Foods like, leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, beans, bread, cereals, rice, and pastas can help you obtain your recommended amount of folic acid. It’s never too soon to start adding these items into your diet to prepare your body for pregnancy.