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Folate Before Pregnancy

Women who could become pregnant need to eat folate-rich foods and have a daily multivitamin with 0.4 mg of folic acid.

Did you know that half of all pregnancies in Canada are unplanned? Having 0.6 mg of folate daily will help prevent you from having a baby with a neural tube defect (NTD). The defect occurs before most women know that they are pregnant. NTDs are serious birth defects, such as spina bifida. Tissues that normally surround the brain and spine do not fully develop. You need 0.6 mg folate daily for at least one month before pregnancy and during the first 10 to 12 weeks of pregnancy.What about supplements?

Folic acid is the name for the form of the vitamin found in supplements and fortified foods. To get the recommended 0.6 mg of folate daily, you must take 0.4 mg of folic acid from a multivitamin supplement. Your pharmacist can show you the best kind.

Folic acid should not be taken in a dose higher than 1 mg daily because it can hide signs of vitamin B12 deficiency. Only take one multivitamin daily because taking more than 10,000 IU (3,300 RE) of vitamin A puts you at risk to have a baby with a birth defect.

Are you at risk?

You are a high risk of having a baby with an NTD if you:

  • have had a child with an NTD

  • have had an NTD in your family

  • have Diabetes

  • take anti-convulsant drugs, such as carbamazepine or valproate

If you are at risk and do not want to get pregnant, you and your partner need to use reliable birth control. When planning a pregnancy, you may need more folic acid, so talk to your doctor about it.

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