Folic acid, also known as folate, is a B-vitamin that can be found in some enriched foods and vitamin pills. If women have enough of it in their bodies before pregnancy, this vitamin can decrease the risk for neural tube defects (NTDs), which are birth defects of the baby’s brain (anencephaly) or spine (spina bifida).
For many women, an easy way to be sure you’re getting enough folic acid is to take a vitamin with folic acid in it. The U.S. Public Health Service recommends that all women who could possibly become pregnant get 400 micrograms (or 0.4 mg) of folic acid every day. This could prevent up to 70% of some types of serious birth defects. But to do this, women need folic acid before they get pregnant. That’s why you should always get enough folic acid every day even if you’re not thinking about a baby any time soon. Folic acid has been added to some foods, such as enriched breads, pastas, rice, and cereals. A few cereals have 100 percent of the folic acid you need.
(Source: CDC website, www.cdc.gov)