Folic acid is a vitamin (B9). It is found in certain foods and it can also be taken as tablets.
If you’re planning to have a baby, it’s important that you take folic acid tablets for two to three months before you conceive. This allows it to build up in your body to a level that gives the most protection to your future baby against neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.
As you could get pregnant within a month of trying, it is ideal to start taking folic acid tablets two months before you stop contraception. If you have already stopped contraception, that’s OK, start taking it now and until week 12 of pregnancy.
You can also try to eat more foods that contain folate, which is the natural form of folic acid. However, even a healthy diet does not have enough folic acid for pregnancy so taking folic acid tablets is very important.
If you end up taking folic acid tablets for far longer than two to three months this is perfectly OK and not harmful.
Why should I take folic acid?
If you have the right level of folic acid in your body before you get pregnant, it reduces the risk of the baby developing neural tube defects by up to 70%. Neural tube defects are problems with the brain or spinal cord, including spina bifida.
Spina bifida is not common but it can cause a wide range of problems for the baby, including:
How much folic acid should I take?
Most women are advised to take a 400mcg supplement every day. You can get these from most pharmacies, supermarkets, and health food shops. Your GP may also be able to prescribe them to you.
You can also get folic acid in some pregnancy multivitamin tablets. If you do, make sure the tablet does not contain vitamin A. High doses of vitamin A can cause developmental problems in the first three months of pregnancy.
You can also try to eat foods that contain folate. These include:
Eating foods high in folate alone will not be enough to give the best protection to the baby so it is important to take the tablet too.
Some people need a higher dose of folic acid
If you have a higher risk of having a pregnancy affected by neural tube defects you will be advised to take a higher dose of 5mg folic acid.
You may have a higher risk if:
- you have diabetes
- you or your partner have a neural tube defect
- you have had a previous pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect
- you or your partner have a family history of neural tube defects
- you have epilepsy
- you are a heavy drinker.
To get a higher dose talk to your doctor because 5mg tablets aren’t available without a prescription.
Where do I get folic acid?
Folic acid can be found in lots of branded pre-pregnancy vitamins. These are not harmful but can sometimes be expensive. It is often cheaper to buy folic acid separately rather than buying expensive branded supplements.
If you receive certain benefits or are under 18 you may be eligible for free vitamins when you become pregnant.
Healthy Start is a UK-wide scheme that provides free vitamins, including folic acid. You also get free weekly vouchers for milk, plain fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables and infant formula milk.
You qualify if you are on benefits and:
- you are at least 10 weeks pregnant
- have children under the age of four
All pregnant women under the age of 18 qualify – whether they are on benefits or not.
To find out more and apply visit Healthy Start or call 0345 607 6823
I think I’m already pregnant but haven’t been taking folic acid. What do I do?
Don’t worry, the risk of problems is small. Start taking folic acid now and until week 12 if you have not reached it yet. You don’t need to take after 12 weeks folic acid (though it is not harmful) as the neural tube will have fully developed. You can talk to your GP or midwife if you have any concerns.
I’ve been trying to get pregnant but haven’t been taking folic acid supplements. Should I stop trying to conceive?
But try not to worry if you haven’t started taking the supplements yet and start taking it now. You can talk to your GP or midwife if you have any concerns.
1. Sue Macdonald, Gail Johnson, Mayes’ Midwifery. (Edinburgh: Baillir̈e Tindall Elsevier, 2017), p 312.
2. NHS Choices (accessed 01/04/2018) Why do I need folic acid in pregnancy? Page last reviewed: 16/03/2016 Next review due: 16/03/2018 https://www.nhs.uk/chq/pages/913.aspx?categoryid=54
3. NHS Choices (accessed 01/04/2018) Spina bifida Page last reviewed: 04/05/2017 Next review due: 04/05/2020 www.nhs.uk/conditions/spina-bifida
4. NHS Choices (accessed 01/04/2018) Vitamins and minerals Page last reviewed: 03/03/2017 Next review due: 03/03/2020 https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-b/#folic-acid
ℹLast reviewed on June 5th, 2018. Next review date June 5th, 2021.
By Lindy (not verified) on 4 Jan 2020 - 16:31
Hi I'm 41ihave been trying to conceive no lucky can I stat folic acid tablet
By Jennie (not verified) on 2 Dec 2019 - 21:21
Can you take folic acid while breastfeeding?
By Ishola suliyat peace (not verified) on 29 Dec 2019 - 14:46
Can you take folic acid during breastfeeding
By N/a (not verified) on 31 Oct 2019 - 13:36
Hi i hav irregular periods n trying to conceive what can i do i left the pill last year march n been trying bt no success plz advise
By Cherry Watt (not verified) on 5 Oct 2019 - 15:54
Is it possible being on conception for like about 8-9 months and decided of coming off completely as, i want to go for another baby I've been off for about over 1 month now but, I've been having my cycle for about 2 or 3 times now so, can this mess with your cycle(body) and fertility?
By Sylvia (not verified) on 4 Oct 2019 - 15:10
I use nuristrate injection for 5yrs, now i need a baby, my first born is 7yrs, can folic acid help me conceive
By Isel (not verified) on 24 Sep 2019 - 18:39
My doctor prescribe me with the folic acid vitamins to get my body for pregnancy has anyone took them and how long did they take to be pregnant. I want more information how it can help me
By Gloria (not verified) on 12 Dec 2019 - 18:57
This is now six months I have been trying to be pregnant but no way, I don't know what to do again
By Thobo (not verified) on 29 Dec 2019 - 14:57
How long does it take to
By Noni (not verified) on 18 Sep 2019 - 11:31
Can people help me I want to fall pregnant
By Mimi (not verified) on 6 Sep 2019 - 11:36
I am 8 weeks pregnant.can i start using folic acid since i didn’t take before getting pregnant
By Nkechi obiagwu Alice (not verified) on 19 Aug 2019 - 12:38
I had fibroid operation last month can I take folic acid
By Nikki (not verified) on 15 Oct 2019 - 02:29
By Sally (not verified) on 1 Aug 2019 - 21:03
Taking folic acid for a month skip it and continuing taking it . is it idea for one to get pregnant at n for miscarriage after 5 months
By Dudu Dube (not verified) on 28 Jul 2019 - 02:14
Can folic acid make you constipated?
I've been taking Pregnavit but now I'm forever constipated
By Chidiebere (not verified) on 16 Jul 2019 - 18:30
I had miscarriage last year August, and since then I have been trying to conceive without success. What do I do
By Cindy (not verified) on 19 Aug 2019 - 08:59
I gave birth February 2016 through CS nd I lost d child, since then I have been trying to conceive but is not coming forth. Wht should I do?
By zebiba369 (not verified) on 26 Dec 2019 - 09:23
I had misscarge befor 2 month
Now i want to be pregnant so what shall i do
By Sinalo (not verified) on 10 Jul 2019 - 21:38
Hi I am 29 years now and I’ve had a miscarriage before, me and my partner we’ been trying to conceive but I’m not falling pregnant I missed my periods for June I thought I was pregnant and I bought a pregnancy test it showed it’s negative and we in the second week of July and got my periods I don’t what going on with my body coz it’s the second time this is happening, but I want to fall pregnant I’ve been taking preg omega
By Rita (not verified) on 4 Jul 2019 - 08:53
Can someone with fibroid take folic acid trying to concieve
By TRICIA JOHN (not verified) on 19 Jun 2019 - 20:01
I HAVE HAD ABORTION FOR LIKE FOUR TIMES AND SINCE THEN I FIND SO DIFFICULT TO CONCEIVE AND I AM TIERD OF SPENDING MONEY HERE AND THERE PLEASE CAN FOLIC ACID HELP ME OUT
By Bridget (not verified) on 28 Jun 2019 - 20:29
i have try getting pregnant but is not coming should i use the folic acid becouse i wont to get serious pregnant
By Ifeoluwa ocia (not verified) on 4 Aug 2019 - 11:48
By Clara (not verified) on 12 Nov 2019 - 03:38
How can you advise me
By Linda (not verified) on 17 Jun 2019 - 14:52
I started taking it for two months and am pregnant now, should i stop and continue taking it after three months months of pregnancy or what's the dosage?
By Ivy Stella Gu (not verified) on 11 Jun 2019 - 13:19
Iam 46yrs can pregnacare before conception can make me pregnant?
By Yemisi (not verified) on 6 Aug 2019 - 21:02
can pregnacare conception make 46years pregnant
By Grace (not verified) on 14 May 2019 - 14:11
Please can I continue to take the foic acid tablet during menses in preparation for conception .
By Jhea (not verified) on 11 May 2019 - 10:50
Hi! I need your help please.I just buy folic acid now but this Maxifol 5000 and 5mg.I am worried if it is right dossages that I brought.I have 14 years old boy I really want to have a baby again its been a long time ago.please help me.Thanks!
By lolo (not verified) on 11 Jun 2019 - 13:08
we are in the same page here jhea ,my boy is 12 years now and I really want another baby now, I visit the pharmacist and I was told to use folic acid as well so I am on my second moth now taking 500mg everyday..i am super excited for this journey
By Lizzy George (not verified) on 10 May 2019 - 18:42
I am 28, and have never be pregnant in my life I want to be pregnant now what will I do?
By Aliyah (not verified) on 3 Sep 2019 - 13:17
start seeing the gynecologist, they will conduct a series of test to check your fertility level and you can take it up from there. Good Luck
By Jane (not verified) on 7 May 2019 - 09:41
Tes years of wanting
By Rita (not verified) on 16 Aug 2019 - 07:11
I have sex but no pregnancy
By Jane (not verified) on 7 May 2019 - 09:31
My husband is not active in sex, what can you do to help him.
By Lauren (not verified) on 30 Apr 2019 - 17:43
I had two CS and since then I have never been pregnant . can I start taking folic acid?
By Linda (not verified) on 14 Mar 2019 - 00:24
Hey. I have been using nurstrate for five years I stopped last December. Actually last December I didn't go to my appointment. Now I really want to get pregnant. Can folic acid help me? Please help am desperate
By Anonymous (not verified) on 12 Mar 2019 - 10:37
Am a frist timer I used to miss my period for 5to 7 days then see it again what can I do
By saratu Sani (not verified) on 12 Mar 2019 - 09:43
pls i miscarriage 2 times, waht i plannin now?
By Phindi (not verified) on 11 Mar 2019 - 11:52
i have a child she's 15 years now.
i got miscarriage while trying to have second baby 8years back and until now I've been struggling to be pregnant again so what to do?
By Midwife @Tommys on 15 Mar 2019 - 13:21
If you have been trying to conceive for longer than a year I would suggest to see your GP for a review.
By ekima (not verified) on 22 Mar 2019 - 23:37
i need help
By Rita (not verified) on 16 Aug 2019 - 07:07
I have been having sex for long but I can't conceive
By Ambika (not verified) on 26 Dec 2019 - 09:40
need to help
By Supriya (not verified) on 28 Feb 2019 - 14:31
Hi, I have undergone to endometriosis..then tries for IVF in dec 2017 since docter said I cannot conceive naturally but it was unsuccessful...so can I take these tablets n will it help me to conceive naturally??
By Derin (not verified) on 20 Feb 2019 - 09:41
When can I start taking folic acid after a week miscarriage.
By Midwife @Tommys on 21 Feb 2019 - 14:07
Hi Derin, Thank you for your comment.
We are sorry to hear about your recent miscarriage, this must be a very difficult time for you. If you are planning another pregnancy straight away then you can start taking your folic acid when you want. It is better to start taking this before conception. Hope this helps, Take Care, Tommy's Midwives x
By Queen (not verified) on 31 Jan 2019 - 21:21
I want to have a baby can i start taking folic acide now?
By Midwife @Tommys on 1 Feb 2019 - 10:27
We would advise for you to be taking folic acid for about two months prior to conception where possible, and then for the first trimester of pregnancy.
By Blessing Kefas (not verified) on 12 Feb 2019 - 06:42
pls I want to bee pregnant what will I do