Why should all women of childbearing age take folic acid?

Doctors recommend that all women of childbearing age take a vitamin with at least 400 mcg of folic acid every day:

  • before they’re pregnant
  • during their pregnancy
  • after the baby is born
  • always—if they have any chance of getting pregnant, on purpose or accidentally

Folic acid is important to help prevent certain birth defects. And it’s good for you, too. So if you have any chance at all of becoming pregnant—take a pill! And if you were taking prenatal vitamins and/or iron during your pregnancy, keep taking them for the first few months of breastfeeding.

But be aware that vitamins don’t take the place of nutritious foods, and they can be dangerous in large amounts. Always take the amount recommended by your doctor.

Because half of all pregnancies in the United States are not planned, all women who can become pregnant should take a vitamin with folic acid every day. Folic acid helps a baby's brain and spine develop very early in the first month of pregnancy when a woman might not know she is pregnant.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.