Extensive research has shown that increased intake of folic acid is hugely important in how your baby develops in the womb. An intake of around 400mcg a day of folic acid (vitamin B9) usually requires a supplement tablet and there are many available on the high street.
When should I start taking folic acid?
Some specialists recommend taking the supplement up to six months before you start trying for a baby, others suggest three months is a good idea. However, if you are already pregnant you can start taking it now. Do not worry about the months beforehand.
How long should I take folic acid?
Take the daily supplement for the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy.
Beyond this, you can continue to take in folic acid and other good nutrients by eating fresh green leafy vegetables. However, some women like to take a pregnancy supplement to boost their vits and minerals throughout pregnancy and even during their breastfeeding months.
If you take a pregnancy multi-vitamin, make sure it is one formulated for your condition as some vits are not advised to be taken in large amounts during pregnancy. (If your GP or midwife is concerned about your iron levels, make sure you have iron supplements in a multi-vitamin rather than just as iron tablets, unless your GP has specifically prescribed them.)
What if I am already over 12 weeks or I skip a day's tablet?
Research on folic acid has produced impressive results but it not the case at all that children born to women who have not taken folic acid will neccessarily suffer. Instead, taking the supplement simply helps reduce the risk of some developmental and physical conditions.
If you are beyond the 12 weeks now, talk to your midwife or GP and ask if she can recommend a good course of multi-vitamins or dietry changes that will keep you and your baby well looked after for the rest of your pregnancy.
If you forget to take your folic acid supplement for one or more days, do not worry. Return to your one-a-day routine and do not take several in one go to make up for lost days.