If a woman doesn't get enough folic acid, her baby has a higher risk of developing a type of birth defect called a neural tube defect (NTD).
NTDs (Neural Tube Defects)
Birth defects that occur very early on in pregnancy.
Can lead to abnormalities of the skull, brain and spinal cord.
Spina bifida, a condition that affects the spinal cord
Can occur as early as the first 3 to 4 weeks of baby’s development (when you may not even know you’re pregnant).
One way to help prevent NTDs is to make sure you get enough folic acid daily, before and during pregnancy, with the help of a healthy diet and a prenatal vitamin prescribed by your health care professional.
While folic acid can be found in some of the foods you eat, most women don't get their recommended daily allowance when they’re not pregnant, much less the extra folic acid they need during pregnancy.
WHO recommends that all women from the moment they begin trying to conceive until 12 weeks into pregnancy should take 400µg of folic acid# . Speak to your Health Care Professional throughout pregnancy, and for as long as breastfeeding continues.2
You may be at greater risk of having a baby with an NTD if:
You or your partner have a personal history positive for folic acid-sensitive birth defects.
You or your partner have a family history for NTD in a first- or second-degree relative.
You have type I or II diabetes.
You are taking epilepsy or folate antagonist medications (Ask your doctor about any medications you are taking).
You have a medical or surgical condition that results in gastrointestinal malabsorption.
Woman at greater risk of having an NTD-affected pregnancy may need to take a higher dose of folic acid and should speak to their doctor.
When you’re pregnant, your need for a number of essential nutrients increases. Look at iron as an example.
Your body needs extra iron to help make red blood cells.
Not getting the extra iron you need puts you at risk of developing iron deficiency.
Tips for the taking
If you’re taking prenatal multivitamins and you experience difficulty swallowing or stomach upset, try these tips:
Take your tablet with food.
Include your tablet in a routine.
Crush it and mix the powder into a drink.
2 Wilson RD et al. Pre-conception Folic Acid and Multivitamin Supplementation for the Primary and Secondary Prevention of Neural Tube Defects and Other Folic Acid-Sensitive Congenital Anomalies. SOGC Clinical Practice Guideline, No. 324. J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2015;29(12):1003-1013.
# Standards for Maternal and Neonatal Care (Integrated Management of Pregnancy and Childbirth), WHO 2007