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Folic Acid and Pregnancy

What Are the Benefits of Folic Acid?

Without enough folic acid in your body, your baby's neural tube may not close correctly and she could develop health problems called neural tube defects. These include:

  • Spina bifida: incomplete development of the spinal cord or the vertebrae
  • Anencephaly: incomplete development of major parts of the brain  

Babies with anencephaly usually do not live long, and those with spina bifida may be permanently disabled. These are scary problems, to say the least. But the good news is that getting enough folic acid may protect your baby from neural tube defects by at least 50%. According to the CDC, if you've already had a baby with a neural tube defect, getting enough folic acid may reduce your risk of having another child with a neural tube defect by as much as 70%.

When taken before and during pregnancy, folic acid may also protect your baby against:

  • Cleft lip and palate
  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Miscarriage
  • Poor growth in the womb

Folic acid has also been suggested to reduce your risk of:

  • Pregnancy complications (One report found that women who took folic acid supplements during the second trimester had a reduced risk of preeclampsia.)
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Some types of cancers
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Good Food Sources of Folic Acid

Foods that can help you get more folic acid in your diet include:

  • 400 mg: Breakfast cerealsfortified with 100% of the DV, 3/4 cup
  • 215 mg: Beef liver, cooked, braised, 3 oz
  • 179 mg: Lentils, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, 1/2 cup
  • 115 mg: Spinach, frozen, cooked, boiled, 1/2 cup
  • 110 mg: Egg noodles, enriched, cooked, 1/2 cup
  • 100 mg: Breakfast cereals, fortified with 25% of the DV, 3/4 cup
  •   90 mg: Great Northern beans, boiled, 1/2 cup
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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Trina Pagano, MD on July 29, 2012

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