Folic acid is a type of vitamin B. Most commonly found in leafy dark green vegetables, beans, citrus fruits and supplemented foods such as breakfast cereals. Increasing the intake of folic acid is essential during the first 3 months of pregnancy. Folic acid aids in the prevention of defects in the brain and spine such as spina bifida. It is also believed to play an important role in preventing other birth defects as well.
The problem though is most women do not even realize they are pregnant until around 6 weeks or even further along. Woman who plan on becoming pregnant should increase their folic acid intake before becoming pregnant. It is extremely hard to reach the levels of folic acid required from food alone so it usually recommended to take a doctor recommended prenatal vitamin that includes folic acid.
For women who had babies in the past with birth defects that could have aided in prevention by folic acid it is recommended that they increase the folic acid intake beyond a prenatal vitamin. Doctors will usually instruct these women to take a 4 mg folic acid pill everyday. This should start before becoming pregnant again and continue during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Always talk to your doctor before beginning any type of vitamin regiment.
Avoid taking more than the recommended daily allowance of vitamins because certain vitamins in excess can cause birth defects.
One of these includes vitamin A. Most prenatal vitamins have less vitamin A but you should take one that has 5,000 IUs or less.
Avoid taking herbal supplements as some are not safe and other's effects are not known.
Supplements such as vitamins should not replace food and a well balanced diet.