What you need to know:
Folic acid, a B vitamin, helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord when taken before the end of early pregnancy. It is available in most multivitamins, as a folic acid-only supplement and in some foods.What you can do:
Take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before pregnancy and during early pregnancy, as part of a healthy diet.
Eat a healthy diet that includes foods that contain folate, the natural form of the vitamin. Such foods include fortified breakfast cereals, dried beans, leafy green vegetables and orange juice.
If you have already had a pregnancy affected by a birth defect of the brain or spinal cord, ask your health care provider how much folic acid you need. Studies have shown that taking a larger dose of folic acid daily can reduce the risk of having another affected pregnancy. The larger dose needs to be taken at least one month before pregnancy and in the first trimester of pregnancy. The recommended dose in this case is 4 milligrams (4,000 micrograms).
Watch the March of Dimes video on folic acid