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Folic Acid

Folic acid, also known as folate, is a B-vitamin that can be found in some enriched foods and vitamin pills. If women have enough of it in their bodies before pregnancy, this vitamin can decrease the risk for neural tube defects (NTDs), which are birth defects of the baby's brain (anencephaly) or spine (spina bifida).

For many women, an easy way to be sure you're getting enough folic acid is to take a vitamin with folic acid in it. The U.S. Public Health Service recommends that all women who could possibly become pregnant get 400 micrograms (or 0.4 milligrams) of folic acid every day. This could prevent up to 70% of some types of serious birth defects. But to do this, women need folic acid before they get pregnant. That's why you should always get enough folic acid every day even if you're not thinking about a baby any time soon. Folic acid has been added to some foods, such as enriched breads, pastas, rice, and cereals. A few cereals have 100 percent of the folic acid you need.

No one expects an unplanned pregnancy. But they happen - every day. In fact, about half of all pregnancies are not planned. That's why you should get enough folic acid every day if there's any chance you could get pregnant.  Because by the time you know you're pregnant, your baby's brain and spine are already formed.

Folic Acid Now. So your body's ready when you are.

Date last reviewed: 09/25/2003
 Selected Resources
Folic Acid Newsletter Spring/Summer 2004
This newsletter was created to increase communication between the CDC and state and community health agencies working to decrease the incidence of neural tube defects by increasing folic acid consumption among women of childbearing age.  [Newsletters and Bulletins]
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The purpose of these questions and answers is to educate women of childbearing age on the importance of consuming 400 micrograms of folic acid everyday. Folic Acid can help reduce the risk of spina bifida by up to 70%.  [Questions & Answers]
Folic Acid Materials Order Form
CDC has folic acid education materials available free of charge for your use.
Information for Health Professionals
New Information, assistance, materials and references for health professionals.
Contact Us
CDC seeks to give people accurate and timely information about NTDs. We respond to requests for information from state and local agencies, health professionals, universities, and the general public. Please be aware that we cannot give you medical advice.  [Contact Information]
 Education & Training
EXCITE : Babies and Birth Defects: A Mystery in Texas
An educational module designed to teach middle school and high school students about epidemiology, neural tube birth defects, and folic acid.
Science Ambassador Program
Selected teachers will learn about a variety of topics, including folic acid, birth defects, genetics, fetal alcohol syndrome, epidemiology, and surveillance from eminent CDC scientists. Participating teachers can then use this knowledge to create and implement exciting new science lesson plans for their students.
Folic Acid Quiz
Test your awareness of folic acid with this quiz.  [Education and Training Opportunities]
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 Resources on Folic Acid
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Conferences & Events
2nd Annual Birth Defects Monitoring and Prevention in Georgia—Partners’ Meeting
Please plan to join NCBDDD and the Georgia Division of Public Health for a meeting to promote research and monitoring of birth defects and to improve the lives of children in Georgia born with birth defects.
Programs & Campaigns
National Folic Acid Campaign
The CDC, the March of Dimes, and the National Council on Folic Acid have organized the National Folic Acid Campaign to promote the use of folic acid to prevent the serious birth defects spina bifida and anencephaly.
Science Ambassador Program
State Folic Acid Campaigns
Links to US states' websites participating in the Folic Acid National Campaign.
see all Programs & Campaigns information on this topic
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