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First Trimester

Q&A: Getting Folic Acid During Pregnancy?

I’ve heard that folic acid is important when you’re pregnant – why? What foods can I get it from?

You heard right. Folic acid (also known as vitamin B9) has been shown to drastically decrease the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida when taken before conception and during pregnancy. Doctors think so highly of this vitamin that they recommend every woman of child-bearing age take at least 400 mcg every day, just in case. During pregnancy, the suggested daily intake jumps to 600-800 mcg. If you have a family history of neural tube defects, you should get even more.

Find this wonder-acid in whole grains, leafy greens, citrus fruits, and some legumes. Since the U.S. government has hopped on the folic acid bandwagon, the vitamin is now added to nearly all breads, cereal, pasta, rice and flour. (Finally, a good reason to eat carbs.) You can (and should) up your folic acid intake even more with a supplement. Most women don’t get nearly enough of this vitamin, and since it’s water-soluble, you’ll just pee out whatever you don’t need.

By Paula Kashtan