We get questions all the time about folic acid and its benefits for women. To help, we’ve answered five commonly asked questions about the B-vitamin and its use.

Who should take folic acid?

All women of child bearing age should make folic acid part of their daily regimen. We suggest women start as early as 10 years old as the younger we are the easier it is to develop healthy habits.

We suggest folic acid even for women who are not planning on getting pregnant since more than half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. For the full effects and benefits of the supplement, it must be in the woman’s system for at least one month before conception.

Which birth defects do folic acid help to prevent?

Folic acid has been found to reduce the risk of the following neural tube defects (NTDs) by as much as 70%:

  • Spina bifida
  • Anencephaly
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Cleft lip and palate
  • Limb reduction defects
  • Obstructive uropathies

What is the best time of day to take folic acid?

Most nutritionists say to take supplements, like folic acid, in the morning. Digestion slows at night, so taking your vitamins in the morning will allow for better and more efficient absorption into your system.

Also, for some, B vitamins like folic acid can stimulate metabolism and brain function at a high enough rate that it can make sleeping more difficult.

How much folic acid should I take?

According to the U.S. Public Health Service, U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, March of Dimes, the Institute of Medicine, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all women of childbearing age in the United States who are capable of becoming pregnant should consume 0.4 mg (400 mcg) of folic acid per day.

Most prenatal supplements contain between 0.4mg and 0.8mg of folic acid and either is considered safe and acceptable for women planning to become pregnant or who are pregnant.

In addition, women should eat a healthy diet including foods rich in folic acid. Most women get only about 200 micrograms of folic acid a day from their diets.

With or without food?

In the case of most vitamins, it’s better not to take them on an empty stomach. However, with folic acid, women are advised to take them before a meal to make sure it is fully absorbed into the system.

We also suggest taking your B9 vitamin with water.

For answers to more questions about folic acid, visit our FAQ page.