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Women's Health
Why "get folic?"

Folic acid is a B vitamin that is essential for proper growth and development. Folate is the natural version of this B vitamin found in foods such as green leafy vegetables, orange juice, beans and lentils. Although some foods are fortified (have extra folic acid added), it is difficult to get enough folic acid from food alone.

Studies show that if you take folic acid before you get pregnant, you reduce the chances of having a child with birth defects of the brain and spinal cord (neural tube defects). Spina bifida is the most common neural tube defect. However, once you realize you are pregnant, it is usually too late to prevent these birth defects as the baby's brain and spinal cord have already passed important stages of development.

Because almost half of all pregnancies are not planned, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Institute of Medicine recommend that all women, who have started their menstrual cycles, take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid a day - the amount found in most multivitamins. If cost is a factor, buying a store brand multivitamin or just folic acid tablets costs less than a penny a day.

North Carolina, along with northern China, Mexico, and Ireland/Wales, has one of the highest rates of neural tube defects in the world! If all women in North Carolina took a multivitamin with folic acid daily, this rate could be decreased by up to 70 percent!

Growing evidence suggests that taking folic acid daily may prevent a variety of health problems at all stages of life. It may help prevent some cancers such as breast, cervical and colon cancers and it may help prevent heart disease and stroke. Low levels of folate in the body have also been linked with Alzheimer's disease.

Other Links

North Carolina

Opens in new windowNC Preconception Health Campaign

Opens in new windowWIC County Directory - WIC offices around the state


Opens in new windowMarch of Dimes - Information on Folic Acid

Opens in new windowNational Council on Folic Acid The Office on Women's Health (OWH), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), works to improve the health and sense of well-being of all U.S. women and girls. OWH serves as the focal point for women's health activities across HHS offices and agencies and leads HHS efforts to ensure that all women and girls achieve the best possible health.

For more health information, search MedlinePlus

MedlinePlus Trusted Health Information for You

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Last updated: January 2015

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