Do We Really Need Folic Acid Before & During Pregnancy? Zita West 21 September, 2013 Expert, Nutrition, Pregnancy, Trying For A Baby We’ve had lots of questions this month about Folic Acid and so we asked our fertility guru and expert Zita West to answer some of your questions. I started taking Zita’s supplements including her DHA before I fell pregnant and felt good on them, it’s a funny thing taking vitamins and I wanted to take them from a trusted source like Zita. What is folic acid, and why are women advised to take folic acid before trying to get pregnant? Folic acid is B vitamin (sometimes referred to as vitamin B9) and it helps to protect the baby from spina bifida. It is also important for cell division during the first 12 weeks when all the internal organs are forming. It is found in green leafy vegetable pulses, cereals and some foods are even fortified with folic acid. It needs to build up in your system ready for when you get pregnant, so that you have good levels in those crucial early weeks when the baby’s spinal cord is forming. Very often it is so early you may not know you are pregnant. Should I start taking folic acid before I come off the pill or after? Yes, before, if you are planning to get pregnant straight away. How long should I be on folic acid before I should try to get pregnant – does a build up occur, or am I able just to pop a pill one day, and try the next? On average it takes six months to get pregnant and up to a year, so it’s important you are taking it for at least 3 months before. If you are pregnant and haven’t been taking it, don’t worry, you must start straight away, you need 400 mcg which you can take separately or in supplements. I’m halfway through my monthly pill, can I stop straight away in order to get pregnant, or should I finish the pack? Finish the pack but start trying straight away as you stand more of a chance of getting pregnant when you first come off the pill. Don’t wait. Does it matter which brand of folic acid I take? I always suggest my own brand as I know the dose and the source, but alternatives are available in local chemists. Please consult your doctor if in doubt. How soon into the pregnancy should I stop taking folic acid and is there any other necessary supplement that I should be taking for the rest of the pregnancy? Folic acid is useful throughout pregnancy and many supplements contain folic acid to support you throughout pregnancy. I’ve found out I’m pregnant; I haven’t taken any folic acid or anything else in preparation for pregnancy. Is it too late? What should I do and is there anyway of finding out if not taking it has had an effect on my baby before birth? As previously mentioned, don’t worry – you should start taking folic acid straight away. A pregnancy scan will be able to detect any abnormality. You will also be getting some amount of folic acid from pulses, cereals, lentils and vegetables. Is there anything else I should remember before I start trying for a baby? Check your rubella status and have a sexual health screen. Start on Vitamin D supplements. Some women have special requirements for extra folic acid i.e. if you suffer from epilepsy you will need a higher dose. Also if you have had previous miscarriages you may also require a higher dose. Zita West You can buy a range of pre and post pregnancy vitamins online at Zita West.