When should I start taking folic acid?

Folic acid is a vitamin (B9) which is important in the early weeks of pregnancy because it helps close the neural tube.

Why should I take folic acid?

Certain vitamins and minerals, including folic acid, have been shown to have a positive impact on the health of a growing baby. 

Folic acid supplements have been shown to dramatically cut the risk of having a baby with spina bifida or other problems affecting the baby's spine and neural tube.

When should I take folic acid?

You are advised to take folic acid every day while you are trying to get pregnant, and for at least the first 12 weeks of pregnancy while the baby's spine develops.

How much folic acid should I take?

Most women will be advised to take a 400mcg supplement.

You should also try to eat foods that contain folate, which is the natural form of folic acid. These include:

  • green leafy vegetables
  • brown rice
  • some breakfast cereals. 

It is difficult to get the amount of folate that you need from food though so it is very important to take a folic acid supplement.

Higher dose

You will be advised to take a higher dose of 5mg if your baby has an increased risk of having neural tube development problems. The risk increases if you have diabetes or if you or your partner have a history of neural tube defects.

Read all about folic acid and planning a pregnancy here.


  1. Macdonald S, Magill-Cuerden J, Mayes’ midwifery, fourteenth edition, Edinburgh Bailliere Tindall Elsevier, 2012
  2. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Antenatal care: routine care for the healthy pregnant woman, clinical guideline 62, London NICE, 2008
  3. US Department of Health and Human Services, Neural tube defects: condition information, Washington DC National Institutes of Health, 2012. Also available at: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/ntds/conditioninfo/Pages/default.aspx (accessed 13 May 2014)
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    Last reviewed on June 13th, 2017. Next review date June 13th, 2020.

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    Please note that these comments are monitored but not answered by Tommy’s. Please call your GP or maternity unit if you have concerns about your health or your baby’s health.
    • By Nicholas (not verified) on 22 Apr 2020 - 10:40

      We just discovered my wife is 6days pregnant. Pls can she start taking Pregnacare as soon as possible or she has to wait ? And if so till when can she take Pregnacare.??

    • By Augstina (not verified) on 10 Apr 2020 - 04:17

      Am 45 believing God for pregnancy please what do I do

    • By Elizabeth (not verified) on 16 Feb 2020 - 04:21

      Please my doctor has not recommended folic acid for me and am 6 weeks gone can I buy it and start using it on my own

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 18 Feb 2020 - 12:25

      Dear Elizabeth - yes you can purchase folic acid from most supermarkets or chemists.
      Take care, Tommy's Midwife

    • By Golden (not verified) on 4 Dec 2019 - 15:32

      I just treated hormonal imbalance last two months... Now I want to start taking seven seas trying for a baby and wait for my hubby to come bk this month...plz should I continue??? Is it going to help me to consieve fast???

    • By Jane Timothy (not verified) on 15 Oct 2019 - 20:57

      Is it good to take folic acid even when u are not ready for babies?

      Is it good to take folic acid during menstrual period?

    • By Opene Augustina (not verified) on 24 Sep 2019 - 11:00

      I am 8weeks pregnant and I went to hospital I was told to start taking filic acid or pregcare but when I left I went k see my friend who is also 8weeks pregnant she gold me a doctor told her it's too early to start taking folic acid

    • By Preet (not verified) on 14 Sep 2019 - 08:23

      I am taking since last 3 months and i hsve my due date of menstrual cycle is 26 july,2019 and i want to know today 14 sep 2019 and i had bleeding is it normal for pregnancy or not .

    • By ireen (not verified) on 28 May 2019 - 22:52

      hi. i would like to ask if possible to get pregnant 17 day before my period.

    • By maryann (not verified) on 30 Mar 2019 - 20:35

      Im 3months pregnant n have nt started taking any supplements will it affect d functioni

    • By Lyss (not verified) on 21 Mar 2019 - 04:50

      If I am taking a prenatal, do I need to take folic acid also?

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 21 Mar 2019 - 17:03

      Hi - Thank you for your message.
      Its best to check what your pre-natal vitamins include - you need to take 400 micrograms of folic acid each day – you should take this from before you are pregnant until you are 12 weeks pregnant. If your prenatal vitamins include this level of folic acid, then you do not need any more.

    • By Tashie (not verified) on 20 Mar 2019 - 03:45

      I’m a 24 yr old that has been on folic Acid for only a week while trying to conceive at the same time. Just discovered I was supposed to be on it for months before trying to conceive. What will happen to me if I fall pregnant in less then weeks or a month of taking it??

    • By Hamidah (not verified) on 13 Mar 2019 - 20:53

      12 weeks pregnant but havent taken any folic acids en vitamins is it too late for me to start off?. Tnx

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 15 Mar 2019 - 16:44

      Whilst we do advise to take them from pre-pregnancy, try not to worry we advise now that you can take vitamins but ensure you have a healthy balanced diet. If you are worried then do speak with your midwife.
      Best wishes
      Tommy's midwife

    • By Bella (not verified) on 21 Feb 2019 - 11:12

      Please, I'm 5 weeks gone. When can I start taking pregnacare?

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 22 Feb 2019 - 13:21

      Hi Bella,
      We would advise for you to take a folic acid and vitamin D supplement as soon as possible.
      Best wishes
      Tommy's midwife

    • By Mary. Copper (not verified) on 15 Feb 2019 - 14:15

      I did myometomy surgery for fabroid about 9months ago and I haven't gotten my period .I am in early 40s .can someone help me ,when will my period come to get pregnant

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 20 Feb 2019 - 12:38

      Hi Mary, you need to go to your GP for review and to discuss your history. You may need further gynae investigations. All the best, Tommy's Midwife

    • By selly (not verified) on 13 Dec 2018 - 03:09

      Hi am 8 weeks pregnant is it too late to start taking folic acid

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 14 Dec 2018 - 15:31

      The advice is to take folic acid for at least the first trimester, therefore as soon as you can get a supplement it would be recommended to start taking it straight away.
      Best wishes
      Tommy's midwife

    • By jeny (not verified) on 7 Nov 2018 - 13:01

      I just found out am pregnant for my 2nd baby and am almost seven weeks gone hope am not tooo late to take the folic acid

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 9 Nov 2018 - 15:50

      Hi Jeny,
      Please try not to worry, but we do advise to start taking it as soon as you can now.
      Best wishes
      Tommy's midwife

    • By mary k (not verified) on 28 Aug 2018 - 12:47

      hi iam 34 and amother of 1baby girl am triyng 2nd baby but i have miscarage 2times do i have chance for 3rd time can i start folic acid?

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 29 Aug 2018 - 12:56

      Hi Mary
      I am sorry to hear you have experienced two miscarriages. In trying for another baby, yes it would be great for you to start taking folic acid now whilst you are trying again to conceive.
      It is impossible to know if you will have another miscarriage, but you can go to talk with your GP to seek advice as they know your full medical history and will know test results if you had any bloods taken after your second miscarriage.
      Feel free to call our helpline if you have any more questions to ask.
      All the best
      Tommy's Midwives

    • By lucky (not verified) on 24 May 2018 - 20:14

      Should I take folic acid 4mg lm 18 years old and my partner want a baby

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 25 May 2018 - 10:22

      If you are planning a pregnancy then we do advised for you to take a folic acid supplement of 400mcg for about 3 months before trying to conceive, although do not worry if you are also ready pregnant then start taking it straight away. In the article above it does explain that for some a higher dose is needed, so just checked if any of those things apply to you otherwise the usual dose is 400mcg.
      Best wishes, Tommy's midwives

    • By Khayalam (not verified) on 23 May 2018 - 18:50

      Thabc for the info.plz keep providing,first time

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 24 May 2018 - 16:17

      Hi Khayalam, Thankyou for your comment.
      We are pleased that you are finding all of our information helpful. If you would like any advice or support then please email us on [email protected] Take Care, Tommy's Midwives x

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