The Importance of Folic Acid during Pregnancy
All nutrients are essential in preparing for pregnancy, but folate or folic acid merits special consideration.
Soon after conception, folate helps develop the baby’s neural tube, which becomes the spinal cord and brain. Women who consume enough folate, particularly in the weeks prior to conception and during the first six weeks of pregnancy, may reduce their babies’ risks of neural tube defects.
Eat a variety of foods rich in folate, such as citrus fruits and juices, dark-green leafy vegetables, beans and nuts. And women of childbearing age should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid (600 micrograms if pregnant) from fortified foods in grains, such as breads, cereals or pastas, vitamin supplements or both, in addition to the folate found naturally in other foods.