Word on Health

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Word On Folic Acid

Our grateful thanks to Doctor Rob Hicks for his input to our 'on-air' report which you can access further down this page via our radio player.

Special thanks to  SHINE a registered charity and community of 75,000 individuals, families, friends, and professionals, sharing achievements, challenges and information on living with hydrocephalus, or spina bifida, and related issues. We'd also like to thank the Scottish Spina Bifida Association the only Scottish charity providing information, support, projects and advice on all aspects of spina bifida and hydrocephalus.

What every woman needs to know

You need to take start taking folic acid BEFORE you become pregnant.  Because folic acid (Also known as Vitamin B9) can help to prevent birth defects such as spina bifida which occur in the first 28 days of pregnancy – before many women even know they are pregnant.

Up to 70% of neural tube defects (NTDs) including spina bifida can be prevented by taking the right amount of folic acid at the right time.

How much should I take? Health professionals recommend that if you could become pregnant, whether you are trying for a baby or not, you should take a supplement of folic acid each day. This is because it is difficult to tell exactly when you conceive.

The standard dose is 400mcg daily. Ideally, this should be taken for at least 3 months before conception and also during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

BUT ...you are likely to need a larger dose (5mg) if you are in a higher risk category e.g. if you or your partner have a family history of NTD, or you have diabetes, epilepsy, coeliac disease or are very overweight.

If you think you may need the higher dose it is very important that you see your GP to discuss this BEFORE you get pregnant.

Where can I get Folic Acid?  Tablets containing the standard dose (400mcg) of folic acid are widely available in chemists and supermarkets. If you need the higher dose (5mg) you will need to ask your GP for a prescription.

Do I really need to take Folic Acid even if I have a healthy diet?  YES! Although it is good to eat foods which are high in folates (the natural form of folic acid) and foods that have folic acid added to them (such as fortified cereals), you still need to take folic acid tablets as well to prevent neural tube defects.

SHINE & the Scottish Spina Bifida Association have a website dedicated to boosting awareness of the importance of Folic Acid (Vitamin B9) prior too and in the early stages of pregnancy - click here to Go Folic  Why not also try the NHS Choices website 


Listen to this weeks radio report

All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.