Folate, or folic acid, in pregnancy

pregnant

Folate is a B vitamin which women require in increased amounts during pregnancy – to assist with cell division in the baby. Low levels are associated with neural tube defects, which are caused by incomplete development of the brain, the spinal cord or their protective coverings in early pregnancy. Examples of these include spina bifida and anencephaly.

It is difficult to ensure you get the required amounts of folate during pregnancy from your food alone. Therefore in New Zealand it is recommended that woman should take one 800¬Ķg (0.8 mg) folic acid tablet daily for at least 4 weeks before and 12 weeks after conception, as well as consuming foods rich in folate and folic acid fortified foods.

It’s also recommended that women at increased risk of having a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect (for example, women with a family history of spina bifida) should take 5000¬Ķg (5mg) of folic acid daily for at least 4 weeks before and 12 weeks after conception.

The main dietary sources of folate in New Zealand include:

  • Leafy green vegetables (wash well before use)
  • Citrus fruit
  • Wholegrain breads
  • Legumes (dried beans)
  • Folic acid fortified foods, such as some breakfast cereals and juices
  • Liver ‚Äď but limit to 100g per week due to high vitamin A levels. Liver needs to be well cooked, served hot and eaten immediately after cooking.

Some useful articles and resources on nutrition in pregnancy

To read about iron and how to ensure you’re¬†getting enough for you and your baby, read our article on Iron in Pregnancy.

For information on which foods you need in pregnancy and which to avoid, read our article on Nutrition in Pregnancy.

Preconception Care covers healthy eating and exercise in pregnancy and advises you on what to avoid prior to conception. We also have some great nutritional tips on how to manage Nausea, Constipation & Heartburn.

You should also consider taking a pregnancy multivitamin to ensure you’re getting enough folic acid and iodine right throughout your pregnancy.

Reference: Ministry of Health. Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women, a background paper. 2006. Wellington. NZ Government.

 

Fiona Boyle

Fiona Boyle is a registered dietitian and nutritionist. She runs a private practice and gives nutrition advice to individuals and families to help meet their health needs and personal goals.

Join more than 20,000 families

As we build a strong community of like minds:

  • Get the best tips from the best experts
  • Recipes, parties, crafts and activities
  • Special offers, competitions and more...

Sit back and relax and let us deliver to your inbox.

Please note that Kiwi Families is not intended to replace individualised, specialist advice that you receive from your doctor and other health professionals.

You might also be interested in:

Teenagers and pregnancy

This article looks at teenagers & pregnancy and provides advice for teenagers on how to care for themselves and their…

Pregnancy preconception care

This article explains about pregnancy¬†preconception care and explains what you can do before conception to prepare and care for your…

Vitamin and mineral supplements

Vitamin and mineral supplements are used commonly in New Zealand, but are vitamin and mineral supplements necessary for healthy toddlers,…

Nutrition guidelines for preconception and healthy pregnancy

For many women, preconception nutrition is not considered unless they have a related health issue or are consciously planning for a healthy pregnancy. Once pregnant, focus is altered to planning for arrival of baby, so post-conception nutrition can be an afterthought, yet remains vitally important throughout pregnancy.

Welcome to Kiwi Families

We bring thousands of families together to learn from each other.

Join a community raising great kids: