Skip Navigation LinksYou Need to Know About Folic-Acid

Prenatal Screening Program

Woman eating cerealMaternal Health and Folic Acid

Maternal Health

Maternal Health focuses on the reproductive health of girls and women of reproductive age. This umbrella concept includes all phases of reproductive life including before, during, and after pregnancy so that healthy women enjoy healthy pregnancies and deliver healthy babies for whom they feel prepared and competent to mother. 

For more information about maternal health, please visit CDPH's Pregnancy and Reproductive Health web page

Folic Acid

Why do I need folic acid before and during pregnancy?

Folic acid is a B vitamin that your body uses to make more cells. If you have enough folic acid  in your body before and during pregnancy, it can help lower your chances of birth defects of the baby's brain and spine. It may also lower your chance of having a baby with birth defects of the heart, lip, or mouth.

How can I get enough folic acid every day?

It's recommended that you get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid a day. There are different ways to meet the recommended daily amount of folic acid. Choose foods high in folate (vitamin B9 found in foods),  including the following: lentils, beans, spinach, dark green lettuces, oranges,  black eyed peas, papaya, eggs, sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds and avocados. 

Another way to get the recommended daily 400 mcg is to choose foods that have folic acid on the nutrition label, such as fortified cereal, bread, rice, grits and pasta.         

Or you can take a vitamin pill that has all the folic acid you need every day. On both fortified foods and vitamin pills, find the nutrition label on the side of the cereal box or the back of the vitamin bottle. Look for "Folic Acid" or "Folate."  Look for "100%." It is important that the number says "100%" of your "daily value" (need) for "folic acid" or "folate." However you choose to get your folic acid it's important to get the 400 mcg every day. You may want to take a combination of foods with natural folate, fortified cereal and supplemental vitamin pills.

When should I start to take folic acid?

Folic acid is good for all women. It's especially important to have enough folic acid in your body before you get pregnant and during the first few months of pregnancy.

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