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The Basics About Folic Acid
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities

The B vitamin folic acid helps prevent birth defects. If a woman has enough folic acid in her body before and while she is pregnant, her baby is less likely to have a major birth defect of the brain or spine.

Most women do not know how important folic acid is for their bodies and for the health of a baby they might have in the future. They also do not know that a woman needs to take folic acid every day, starting before she is pregnant, for it to work to prevent birth defects.

Birth defects of a baby’s brain or spine happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman knows that she is pregnant. That is why it is important for a woman to get enough folic acid each day, starting before she is pregnant.

A woman’s body uses folic acid to make healthy new cells for her baby. Scientists are not sure how folic acid works to prevent birth defects, but they do know that it is needed for making the cells that will form a baby’s brain, spine, organs, skin, and bones.

Every woman needs folic acid for the healthy new cells her body makes every day . . . even if she is not planning to get pregnant.

Date: November 16, 2005 Content source: National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities www.cdc.gov

The information presented on this site is intended solely as a general educational aid, and is neither medical nor healthcare advice for any individual problem, nor a substitute for medical or other professional advice and services from a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your unique circumstances. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional regarding any medical condition and before starting any new treatment.

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