If you’re trying to conceive or if you’re pregnant already, you need to know about folate. It’s arguably one of the most important nutrients for women of fertile age, and it’s one of the main reasons prenatal vitamins are recommended by doctors. “Folate is a B vitamin that is particularly important during pregnancy. It helps prevent fetal defects of the brain, spine and spinal cord (collectively referred to as neural tube defects)” says Dr. Stephanie Liu. Before we get to why it’s so essential, let’s answer your most burning, frequently asked question: is folate the same as folic acid?
Folate vs. Folic acid
Folate and folic acid are not equals. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate. Folate—particularly methyltetrahydrofolate (MTHF) which we use in our prenatals and Fertility Support for Her—is the most natural, bioavailable form of folate. We have a gene, MTHFR that helps our body process folate and folic acid. Some people have a mutation in their MTHFR gene which results in a reduced ability of the body to convert folic acid into a usable form.
Why Is Folate Important When Trying to Conceive?
A baby’s neural tube develops within the first month of pregnancy, which often means that folate will be working its magic sometimes before you even know you’re pregnant. In fact, the CDC recommends that every woman of reproductive age take a prenatal supplement with folate for this reason. “Most sources recommend that all women of childbearing age should be taking a folic acid supplement or at least 3 months prior to trying to conceive. The recommended dose of folic acid is 0.4mg daily,” says Dr. Stephanie Liu. Folate is a B Vitamin (B9), and it’s water soluble, which means we release any excess in our urine. Folate is not stored easily in the body and needs to be constantly replenished, so you want to make sure it’s in your body before conception in an ideal world.
Why Is Folate So Important in Pregnancy?
Folate is critical for early fetal development, particularly to avoid neural tube defects that can affect the baby’s brain and spine, such as spina bifida. It’s also important for the baby’s nervous system and DNA replication. Because it can be tricky to get enough folate from the modern diet, a supplement is your best bet. Also, some pregnant women require higher levels of folate than do non-pregnant women. “There are some people such as those with diabetes, a family history of neural tube defects, and women on anti-seizure medications who may require higher doses (5mg) of folic acid at least 2 months prior to conceiving and during the first trimester,” says Dr. Stephanie Liu.
We hope this turns you into folate-loving fanatics like us! You can find folate in our Prenatal Capsule and Fertility Support for Her. We recommend taking both before trying to conceive (here’s why), and just the prenatal during pregnancy.