Although the recommended amount of folic acid for all adults is 400 mcg a day, many doctors recommend higher amounts for women who are able to get pregnant. This is because folic acid plays a big role in preventing birth defects.
Women who don't get enough folic acid before and during pregnancy are more likely to have a child born with a birth defect, such as:
If you're breast-feeding, getting this extra folic acid will make sure that your baby gets the folic acid he or she needs to stay healthy.
Here's an odd fact: The man-made form of this vitamin is actually absorbed better by our bodies than the natural form is. So even if a woman eats a well balanced diet, she may not get the extra folic acid she needs to prevent birth defects unless she also takes a supplement.
It can be hard for women to get extra folic acid from food. So experts say that all women who are able to get pregnant should take a daily supplement that has 400 to 800 mcg of folic acid.3
Some women need even higher doses.
Women who are pregnant with twins or more should take 1000 mcg a day.4
Women who have a family history of neural tube defects, who have already had a baby with a neural tube defect, or who are on medicines for seizures should take 4000 mcg a day. 5
Follow your doctor's advice about how to get higher amounts of folic acid. Don't just take more multivitamins. You could get too much of the other substances that are in the multivitamin.