Do You Need Folate in Pregnancy?

Everyone dreams of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. One of the most important things you can do if you wish to become pregnant, or are in early pregnancy, is to have enough folate in your diet. Folate in pregnancy is of utmost importance.

In this article I will discuss why we need folate in pregnancy, how we get it and what to do if we are unable to consume enough in our diets. Read on to discover if you have this area in your diet covered.

We know that during pregnancy a woman needs more vitamins and minerals than before pregnancy. Consumption of folate in pregnancy in the appropriate amounts is known to help to prevent major birth defects. It is recommended to have folate during the starting months of pregnancy. It is even advised to start taking folate if one is planning to have a child – one month before you conceive.

What are Folic Acid and Folate?

Folate is a water-soluble vitamin B9 that is naturally present in fruits, vegetables, and nuts. A much-needed nutrient for healthy growth and development. Folic acid is a derivative of folate.  Folic acid is added to fortified foods and is also sold as a supplement. According to the experts, this form of folate is better absorbed as compared to a natural food source.

Folic Acids Benefits For Women

Everyone needs folic acid to make new red blood cells in the body but it’s mandatory for women. Some of the benefits of folic acid for pregnant women are listed below;

taking folic acid
  • Consumption of folic acid during pregnancy helps to prevent birth defects called neural tube defects in babies. 
  • Folic acid might also prevent other types of birth defects and early pregnancy loss (miscarriage)
  • It will help to prevent and treat anemia and folate deficiency. 
  • Taking the recommended amount of folic acid will help to prevent stroke and heart diseases. 
  • It helps to keep the blood healthy by helping red blood cells form and grow.
  • It prevents any mutation in DNA and hence, prevents cancer.

Why Do I Need Folate in Pregnancy?

It is definitely important to have folate in pregnancy. The majority of women certainly have folic acid prescribed for them in pregnancy. A central feature of embryonic and fetal development is cell division. Folate in pregnancy plays an important role as it helps in nucleic acid synthesis. Recent studies have shown adverse pregnancy outcomes in women who consume diets that contain a lesser amount of vitamins and minerals, including folate.

So, a low concentration of folic acid and folate can lead to an increased risk of early delivery, underweight infant birth, and fetal growth retardation. If you have plans to conceive. Don’t worry! Just make sure you have an optimum level of folate required for developing a fetus. 

When Should I Start Taking Folic Acid?

Ideally, it is recommended to start taking folic acid one month before conception and during the first three months of the pregnancy. Hence, whenever you are trying to conceive, just start taking the recommended dose of folate. During the preconception phase use of folic acid reduces the recurrent neural tube defects in the offspring of women.

How Much Folate Do I Need?

All women need about 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. Women who may get pregnant should try and aim for 400-800 micrograms per day from a vitamin supplement +/or food that has been fortified with added folic acid like the breads and cereals mentioned. This is in addition to the normal folate you will get form consuming healthy folate rich foods (see list below).

Folate-rich foods

You can get folic acid in two ways;

  1. Through the foods you choose to eat. The best way to have this Vitamin B9 is to eat folate-rich foods. Folate-rich foods include asparagus, raw beets, lentils, black kidney beans, broccoli, edamame, brussel sprouts, and many more. These are not only a good source of folate but also provide many other health-promoting nutrients and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Foilc acid is also found in “fortified” food (called enriched foods) such as some breads, pasta and cereals. The Food and Drug Administration USA has encouraged the food manufacturers to fortify cereal foods, for example, with folic acid. This will help to maintain the body’s daily folate intake and lowers the chances of folate deficiency.
  2. As a vitamin. Most multivitamins sold contain around 400 micrograms or 100% of the daily need of folic acid. Always check the label of your supplement

Natural Sources of Folic Acid

Folate is naturally present in a wide variety of foods. So, you don’t need to hustle to get the daily dose of folate. Just add a few varieties to your diet and fulfil the folate in pregnancy you need.

Let’s jump right into the list of foods containing folate in pregnancy.

folate food sources
Leafy Green Vegetables

Vegetables are a good source of vitamins and minerals. Just a cup of boiled spinach or kale can fulfill 15% daily value of folate. As folate is water soluble the best way to have the maximum amount of folate from the vegetables is either in the raw form or the boiled form. The green leafy vegetables include turnip greens, romaine lettuce, spinach, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and asparagus.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are known as rich sources of protein and fiber. You will be amazed to know that just having an ounce of almonds can fulfill 7% daily value of the folate. Sunflower seeds and peanuts have the highest amount of folate as compared to other nuts and seeds.


Eggs are not only a great source of protein but a medium size egg can provide a 6% daily value of folate.


You will be happier than ever to know that these fresh and delicious fruits can provide you with so many health benefits.  Experts usually recommend adding fruits such as papaya, avocado, and banana to your diet during pregnancy. Just a cup of citrus fruit juice provides you 14% daily value of the folate you need.

Fortified Foods

Many fortified foods are available in the market these days that provide enough folate to complete your daily requirement. Folate fortified cereals, wheat flour and biscuits are also available to help you receive folate in pregnancy.

Can You Take Too Much Folic Acid?

You can actually consume too much folic acid from vitamins and fortified foods but not from natural folate containing foods. Your body does not store folic acid. So, leftover folic acid passes out of the body through the urine. The daily intake of folic acid in pregnant women is 400 micrograms. So, make sure not to exceed more than 1000 micrograms per day as it can cause side effects (unless this is prescribed by your medical professional for other medical conditions)

folate in pregnancy

Best Folic Acid For Pregnancy?

Folic acid tablets are used as a vital source of folate. FullWell Prenatal Multivitamin and Ritual Essential Prenatal are declared as the best folic acid tablet for pregnant ladies. They have all the essential nutrients such as iron, folate, vitamin D, and choline all in a slow-release capsule.

No doubt, parenteral vitamins can not replace a well-balanced diet. But it can help in boosting your and your baby’s vitamins and mineral consumption. It is recommended to take medicine and supplements according to your doctor’s prescription. 

What is Folate Deficiency Anaemia?

Undoubtedly, a deficiency of folate can lead to anemia. It is a condition that usually occurs in pregnant ladies consuming an insufficient amount of folate. Other factors that lead to folate deficiency anemia include alcoholism, genetic variants, digestive disorders, or arthritis.

If you observe any of the following symptoms of folate-deficiency anaemia such as weakness, headache, difficulty in breathing, pale skin, hair loss, or sore mouth and tongue – don’t worry. Just consult your doctor, take folic acid supplements and add more folate-rich food to your diet.

Folate in Pregnancy

In a nutshell, every woman of reproductive age should take folic acid in their diet. Folic acid will help to make new red blood cells in the body, amongst other things. Folate in pregnancy will help you to conceive a healthy baby. Folate is essential for the healthy growth of the fetus as it prevents neural tube defects and many more complications as stated above. 

Consult your doctor and start taking folate-rich foods and supplements and enjoy your beautiful journey of becoming a mother.

Happy pregnancy!

  1. Argyridis, Savvas. ‘”folic acid in pregnancy.” Obstetrics, gynaecology & reproductive medicine 29.4 (2019): 118-120.
  2. Scholl, Theresa O., and William G. Johnson. “Folic acid: influence on the outcome of pregnancy.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 71.5 (2000): 1295S-1303S.
  3. Rothman, Doreen. “folic acid in pregnancyAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynaecology 108.1 (1970): 149-175.
  4. Cuskelly, Geraldine J., Helene McNulty, and John M. Scott. Effect of increasing dietary folate on red-cell folate: implications for prevention of neural tube defects” The Lancet 347.9002 (1996): 657-659.

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