Whenever you hear about or read about folic acid, it’s usually tied to a conversation regarding pregnancy. That’s because the synthetic form of folate or vitamin B9 is incredibly vital in helping to prevent the development of neural tube defects in children in the womb.

However, if you don’t start thinking about taking folic acid until after you’ve discovered you’re pregnant, could be too late.

Neural tube defects — like anencephaly and spina bifida – typically form within the first three to four weeks of pregnancy, which is more of than not, before a woman discovers she is pregnant. According to the American Pregnancy Association, most people actually discover they are pregnant between the fourth and seventh weeks of pregnancy.

This data is taking into account the number of unplanned pregnancies that occur each year.

Women are recommended to take 400 mcg of folic acid daily. For the full benefits during pregnancy, it’s advised that women be taking folic acid as early as 3-months before conception.

There are other reasons to make folic acid part of your daily regimen even for those not planning on getting pregnant, including for your hair, skin, and nails.

Consult with your doctor or OBGYN before starting a daily regimen of folic acid.