Extra Folate & Folic Acid During Pregnancy

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Written by: Co-Founder Amanda Capriglione, RDN, CDN

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Nicole Palmer, DO

Pregnancy is both a wonderful and life-changing experience in a women’s life. It can also be a little stressful knowing that you have a little one growing inside of you to nourish and care for. While daily consumption of actual food is of utmost importance during this time, supplements also play a huge role in your baby’s nourishment and development! In the first trimester especially, women don’t necessarily need extra calories, but they do need extra nutrients (especially folate!).

During pregnancy, women need extra folate and folic acid for their baby’s healthy growth and development. Folate is naturally found in foods like green leafy veggies, legumes, and eggs, while folic acid is synthesized and added to foods such as cereals and also supplements. Adequate folate prevents birth defects of the brain and spinal cord like spina-bifida. During the first trimester, the baby’s nervous system begins to develop so sufficient folate is crucial.  

Prenatal supplements generally contain about 400 micrograms of folic acid, which is sufficient for most pregnant women to take daily. Experts recommend women who are trying to become pregnant take a prenatal vitamin to ensure adequate folic acid stores. It is generally 100% safe if pregnant women consume foods high in folate in addition to taking prenatal supplements. 

SOME FOODS THAT CONTAIN FOLATE INCLUDE:

  • Vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, English spinach, green beans, lettuce, mushrooms, parsnip, sweet corn, zucchini)

  • Fruit (avocado, grapefruit, orange)

  • Legumes (chickpeas, soya beans, lima beans, red kidney beans, lentils, haricot beans)

  • Eggs

  • Nuts

Steaming the vegetables (or consuming them raw) retains the most folate. Adding a little bit of healthy fats like olive oil helps your body absorb the nutrients in the veggies as well. Consuming a serving of folate-rich foods at least 2 times daily along with your prenatal vitamin can help maintain your daily folate needs. Consult with your OB if you believe an extra folic acid supplement is warranted.