The Benefits of Folic Acid

Folic acid in early pregnancy can help protect your baby.

What Is Folic Acid?

Whether you're already expecting -- or just planning to be -- taking the right vitamins can help ensure a healthy baby. One of the most important for you and your baby is folic acid. Up to 70 percent of all neural tube defects (NTDs) -- birth defects of the brain and spine -- could be prevented if every woman of childbearing age took folic acid daily, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Folic acid is a member of the B-vitamin family. It occurs naturally in foods as folates, and is available in synthetic form in vitamin pills. Foods that contain folates include orange juice, green leafy vegetables, and beans. Fortified breakfast cereals, enriched grain products, and vitamins contain a synthetic form of folic acid. The synthetic form is more easily absorbed by your body than the natural form.

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