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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  • 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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