Folic acid is a B vitamin. It helps the body produce and maintain healthy new cells and is essential for the development of a baby’s spine, brain and skull in the early weeks of pregnancy.
Studies have shown that folic acid greatly reduces the incidence of spina bifida, in which the baby’s spine does not close properly during development and anencephaly, a serious birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull.
Folic acid is also found in preventing miscarriage and reducing the risk of high blood pressure and anaemia ("lack of blood") during pregnancy.
Our body does not store folic acid, so it has to be taken through diet or supplements. Foods high in folic acid include dried beans, peas, nuts, leafy green vegetables , fruits, and enriched cereals, breads, pasta , crackers and other grain products. Folic acid supplements are usually prescribed to women who are trying to conceive or are pregnant. A daily dose of 400 micrograms is recommended.