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Indiana State Department of Health

Folic Acid Home Page Folic Acid Home

Folic acid is a B vitamin that, when taken before pregnancy, has been proven to prevent serious birth defects such as spina bifida. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 70 percent of neural tube defects could be prevented if women took folic acid. Current research also indicates that folic acid may help prevent heart disease, stroke, and some forms of cancer.

Why take folic acid?

What are neural tube birth defects?

Who should take folic acid?

How much folic acid should be taken?

What are the various sources of folic acid?

Who do I contact if I have questions about folic acid?

2006 Indiana Folic Acid Statistics

Why take folic acid?

We know that taking 400 micrograms of folic acid before and during early pregnancy can help prevent neural tube defects (NTDs), such as spina bifida, by up to 70 percent. Emerging research also shows that folic acid may reduce the risk of birth defects, such as cleft lip, cleft palate, and heart defects. The risk of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and colon, cervical and breast cancer may be reduced by taking folic acid. The preliminary research findings are exciting, and we believe that taking adequate amounts of folic acid can be beneficial for men and women of all ages.

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What are neural tube birth defects?

Neural tube defects are a group of serious birth defects that occur very early in pregnancy, before most women even know that they are expecting. When the neural tube, which is part of the brain and spinal cord, doesn’t grow properly, a baby is born with a neural tube defect. Children born with neural tube defects, which are among the most common birth defects in the United States, usually need life-long medical treatment.

Spina bifida and anencephaly are the most common neural tube defects. Children born with spina bifida may have difficulty walking, and experience bladder and bowel problems and/or other serious health complications. Anencephaly, a fatal neural tube defect, occurs when a baby is born with a severely underdeveloped brain and skull.

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Who should take folic acid?

We encourage everyone to take 400 micrograms of folic acid everyday, especially females of childbearing age. Statistics show that 50 percent of all pregnancies are unplanned so if there is any chance that you could become pregnant, you need to take folic acid everyday.

Women who have had a baby with a neural tube defect should talk to their doctor because their need for folic acid increases dramatically.

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How much folic acid should be taken?

You need 400 micrograms of folic acid everyday. To get enough folic acid every day you should take a daily multivitamin or supplement and eat a variety of foods as part of a healthy diet.

Recommended Daily Amounts of Folic Acid

  • Adults (14-years and older) 400 mcg/d
  • Breastfeeding women (all ages) 500 mcg/d
  • Pregnant women (all ages) 600 mcg/d
  • Women who have had a previously affected pregnancy 4000 mcg/d
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What are the various sources of folic acid?

Synthetic, or man-made, folic acid is found in multi-vitamins, supplements and fortified foods. Some cereals are fortified with 100 percent folic acid per serving. Check the nutrition labels to find out how much folic acid your cereal contains.

Our bodies actually absorb the synthetic form of folic acid more easily than naturally occurring folate. Folate occurs naturally in leafy green vegetables, beans and grains. The amount of folic acid in these products varies widely and can be affected by processing and cooking, making it difficult to know if you are getting enough folic acid every day. An easy way to be sure you are getting enough folic acid everyday is to take a multivitamin, a folic acid supplement or eat cereals fortified with 100 percent folic acid per serving.

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Who do I contact if I have questions about folic acid?

Folic acid now can help prevent birth defects later. Don’t take it for granted. Talk to your healthcare provider or call us at 1-800-433-0746 or 1-866-275-1274 TTY/TDD.

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2006 Indiana Folic Acid Statistics

Overall results showed a significant increase in public awareness and education during the past 14- month period.

  10/2004 4/2006
Knew nothing about it 25% 0%
Not very much about it 22% 37%
Know a little about it 45% 52%
Know a lot about it 10% 11%

As for the question about taking folic acid before pregnancy, knowledge of this went up from 10% to 55%, which is heartening.

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