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Prenatal Screening Program

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Maternal Health a​nd Folic Acid

Maternal Health

Maternal Health focuses on the reproductive health of girls and women of reproductive age. This umbrella concept includes all phases of reproductive life including before, during, and after pregnancy so that healthy women enjoy healthy pregnancies and deliver healthy babies for whom they feel prepared and competent to mother. 

For more information about maternal health, please visit the Pregnancy and Reproductive Health web page | CDPH

Folic Acid (Questions and Answers)

Question Answer​​
What is folic acid?

Folic acid is a man-made type of folate (B-vitamin) that is important for the healthy​ growth and development of cells in your body. Taking it before and early in pregnancy can help to protect your baby from defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects.

Are folate and folic acid the same thing?

Folate is a word to describe all types of vitamin B9, including folate naturally found in foods and folic acid.

Folic acid is the man-made form of folate used in vitamin supplements and to fortify foods like cereals, rice, bread and more. Learn more about folic acid | CDC .

Where can I find folic acid?

Folic acid can be found in fortified foods or in supplements. It is important to eat a varied diet that includes fortified foods and foods that contain natural folates. All people capable of becoming pregnant should consume 400 mcg of folic acid daily. You can find vitamins and/or multivitamins with 400mcg of folic acid at most local pharmacies and grocery stores. Be sure to discuss with your healthcare provider.

How is folic acid listed on the Nutrition Facts or Supplement Facts label?

Check the amount of folic acid under the Folate section. The label shown below shows 400 mcg of folic acid in a Supplement Facts label.

Supplements facts label highlighting folic acid

How do I get enough folic acid in my diet?

In addition to eating a varied diet with foods rich in folate (dark leafy greens, lentils, and beans), people can get folic acid from foods fortified with folic acid.

Foods fortified with folic acid include enriched breads, pastas, rice, and some breakfast cereals. 

To make sure you get enough folic acid every day, a daily vitamin supplement with at least 400 mcg of folic acid is recommended. 

Learn more about building a healthy plate before and during pregnancy with our CA MyPlate tools.

How soon should I start taking folic acid?

All individuals who could become pregnant are recommended to start taking 400mcg folic acid every day. If you become pregnant and you are not currently taking folic acid, begin as soon as you can. Learn more about folic acid recommendations. | FDA 

What are neural tube defects (NTD)?

Neural tube defects (NTDs) are serious birth defects of the brain and spine that happen when the neural tube fails to close properly. People capable of becoming pregnant should consume 400 mcg of folic acid daily. Folic acid is the only form of folate that has been proven to help reduce the risk of a baby born with an NTD

Need more information about neural tube defects?

NTD: Spina Bifida

A birth defect that happens when the neural tube does not close all the way somewhere along the spine. Can cause a range of effects, from mild to severe, such as problems learning, movement, and controlling the bladder and bowel. Learn more about spina bifida. | CDC 

NTD: Anencephaly

A birth defect that happens if the upper part of neural tube does not close all the way, resulting in the baby being born without parts of their brain and skull. Learn more about anencephaly. | CDC 

Related CDPH Web Pages

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