Folic Acid and Pregnancy

Taking Folic Acid during Pregnancy can help to reduce the risk of Spina Bifida by up to 75%. Here is some important information on Folic Acid and Pregnancy:


Spina Bifida is the most common neural tube defect (NTD) which causes incomplete development of the spinal cord. The exact cause of Spina Bifida is unknown; however the causes of Spina Bifida are thought to be a combination of environmental and genetic factors and a lack of folate in the diet – or the inability to naturally absorb folate. Research to determine the causes of NTDs is still ongoing. What is evident though is that taking Folic Acid cannot prevent all occurrences of Spina Bifida but it can help to reduce the risk by up to 75%.

Not Planning Yet?

In Ireland 50% of all pregnancies are unplanned each year. Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Ireland would recommend that any women of child bearing age take Folic Acid as part of their regular diet. Taking 400 micrograms / 0.4 mg of folic acid can reduce the risk of Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) such as Spina Bifida.

It’s a Small Effort

Folic Acid is a B vitamin that can be found in some foods. It can be difficult to get your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of Folic Acid from food alone. The most practical way to make sure you are getting enough folic acid in your diet is to take a Folic Acid supplement. If you take a multivitamin, check that it has the RDA of Folic Acid – 400 micrograms.

You might also find Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy Diet useful

What is the risk of having a baby with Spina Bifida?

Women who may become pregnant but who have not been identified as being in a high-risk group should also take folic acid. Folic Acid should be taken for at least one month before conception and then until the end of the 12th week of pregnancy.

If a couple have already had a child with Spina Bifida (or have had a pregnancy affected by Spina Bifida) the risk of it happening in another pregnancy is about 1 in 35. For the general population the risk varies from 1 in 300 to 1 in 1,000.

Can Spina Bifida be prevented?

Evidence shows that taking Folic Acid cannot prevent all occurrences of Spina Bifida but it can help to reduce the risk by up to 75%.

Research has shown that women who have had a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect can greatly reduce their chances of it happening again, simply by taking a daily vitamin supplement (tablet) of Folic Acid, before pregnancy and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

You can find out more information on the Spina Bifida Hydropephalus Ireland website.

Spina Bifida Hydrocephaly Ireland

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Jill is one of the co-founders of Mykidstime and a mum of 2 girls