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Folic acid works only if taken before getting pregnant and during the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman may know she’s pregnant. Because nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, it's important that all women (even if they're not trying to get pregnant) get the right amount of folic acid.
The best way to get enough folic acid is to take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid before pregnancy and eat healthy foods. Most multivitamins have this amount, but check the label to be sure. You also can get folic acid from food, but it may be hard to get the amount you need from food alone.
Once you’re pregnant, take a prenatal vitamin with at least 600 micrograms of folic acid. Most healthy women don’t need more than 1,000 micrograms of folic acid per day. But if you’re at risk of having a baby with a birth defect, your health care provider may want you to take more folic acid.