Folic acid and pregnancy: when to take it and what dosage?

Acide folique et grossesse : quand en prendre et quelle posologie ?

Folic acid (or vitamin B9) is essential for the health of pregnant women and their fetuses. And yes, during pregnancy, a woman's body needs to create new cells to ensure the proper development of the fetus, making folic acid more essential than ever! When should I take folic acid during pregnancy? What is the recommended dosage? Elia tells you all about it!

What is folic acid?

Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, is a water-soluble vitamin essential for the proper functioning of the body. It is a vitamin that cannot be synthesized by the human body naturally, and must therefore be supplied by the diet or by medication!

Folic acid plays an important role in many bodily functions, including the formation of red and white blood cells, DNA production, tissue growth and repair, and the development and proper functioning of the nervous system.

Why is folic acid essential during pregnancy?

For pregnant women, this vitamin is particularly important, as it contributes to the baby's healthy development and prevents the appearance of cerebral anomalies.

Promoting cellular development of the fetus

During pregnancyDuring pregnancy, an adequate intake of vitamin B9 is absolutely essential to ensure the proper development of the neural tube, which later develops into the brain and spinal cord. Deficiency during pregnancy can lead to serious congenital malformations, such as spina bifida.

Avoiding the consequences of folic acid deficiency

In pregnant women, a lack of this vitamin can increase the risk of congenital malformations of the nervous system in the fetus, such as spina bifida and anencephaly.

In adults generally, folic acid deficiency can lead to fatigue, weakness, digestive disorders, skin problems, as well as an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.

It is therefore essential to ensure that you get enough vitamin B9 from your diet, and to consider taking supplements in case of deficiency in adults, and almost systematically when you want to have a baby!

When should I start taking folic acid?

It's a good idea to start taking folic acid as soon as you start trying for a baby, to give your body time to build up an adequate supply, but also because your baby's brain starts growing during the first few weeks of pregnancy. And often even before a woman knows she's pregnant!

How long does folic acid supplementation last?

Folic acid can be taken right up to the end of the first trimester of pregnancy, i.e. up to around week 12.

Why is this? As explained above, because the neural tube of the fetus develops very early in pregnancy . It's therefore important to start taking it even before conception, as this vitamin plays an important role in the development of the baby's neural tube.

In all cases, discuss the matter with your doctor, as every woman is different. In cases of vitamin malabsorption or certain pathologies, folic acid intake can be prolonged.

What is the recommended dose of folic acid during pregnancy?

Pregnant women are advised to take a dose of 400 micrograms per day (i.e. 0.4 mg), preferably as soon as they feel the desire to become pregnant (and start trying for a baby!), until the end of the first trimester.

For your information, supplementation is also prescribed for people with certain intestinal absorption disorders or who are taking certain medications that interfere with vitamin absorption.

What foods are naturally rich in folic acid?

Food sources of folic acid include leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, organ meats, legumes, nuts and seeds. Foods fortified with vitamin B9, such as cereals, pasta and bread, are also an important source. Spinach salads, squeezed orange juice, nut bread and lentils are all yours!

When should I take folic acid during pregnancy?

It's advisable to start taking folic acid as soon as you're planning to conceive. Ideally, this should be at least one month before conception and continue until the end of the first trimester of pregnancy, i.e. around 12 weeks. This is essential to prevent neural tube defects in the fetus.

Is it serious not to take folic acid?

Not taking folic acid during pregnancy can increase the risk of serious birth defects in the baby, including neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Pregnant women should pay close attention to their folic acid intake to avoid such complications. If you missed taking folic acid before or at the start of your pregnancy, it's always important to discuss with your doctor the best options for prevention.

How much folic acid should I take during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, it's recommended to take 400 micrograms of folic acid a day, usually in tablet form. This dose is essential for the prevention of birth defects and the healthy development of the fetus. It is advisable to follow medical recommendations to ensure optimal health for you and your unborn child.

When is the best time to take folic acid?

The best time to start taking folic acid is before conception. Ideally, women considering pregnancy should start taking folic acid supplements at least one month before becoming pregnant. This ensures adequate folate levels in the body at the time of conception and reduces the risk of birth defects in the baby. If you are breast-feeding or planning to conceive, it's a good idea to consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice on vitamin and folate intake.

Folic acid FAQs for pregnancy

Is it compulsory to take folic acid during pregnancy?

Although supplementation is not essential, it is strongly recommended for pregnant women! Folic acid is an essential nutrient to ensure a normal pregnancy and avoid abnormalities. In terms of dosage, we recommend taking between 400 and 800 micrograms of folic acid a day during pregnancy.

Is taking folic acid during pregnancy reimbursed?

In France, folic acid intake during pregnancy is reimbursed by the Assurance Maladie on medical prescription. This applies to vitamin B9 prescribed by a GP, gynecologist or midwife. Ask your doctor for a prescription, and check with your health insurance fund for reimbursement conditions.

What are the risks of folic acid overdosage?

In general, taking folic acid is harmless, and overdoses are extremely rare. However, too high an intake over a long period can lead to undesirable side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, sleep or concentration problems, and numbness in the limbs. Prolonged overdosage can also mask a vitamin B12 deficiency.

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The information contained in the articles on is general information only. Although reviewed by health professionals, this information is not error-free, does not constitute health advice or consultation, and is not intended to provide a diagnosis or suggest a course of treatment. Under no circumstances may this information be used as a substitute for medical advice or consultation with a healthcare professional. If you have any questions, please consult your doctor.