Folic acid is a B vitamin that is necessary for a healthy pregnancy. If you are trying to get pregnant, you may wonder if taking folic acid can also improve your chances of getting pregnant. While it is possible that folic acid can boost your fertility, it is also important to begin taking it before conception for health reasons.
If you are trying to get pregnant, you may be tracking your ovulation to determine which days your egg is most likely to be fertilized. Without enough nutrients in your diet, including folic acid, it can be difficult to predict when you are ovulating. A folic acid deficiency can also cause anemia, which MayoClinic.com states has been associated with infertility.
Taking folic acid before pregnancy is important for your baby's health. It helps prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida, which occurs when the spinal column does not close to protect the spinal cord, and anencephaly, which occurs when the brain does not develop completely. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these defects occur in the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before you are even aware that you are pregnant. You need to take 400 to 800 mcg of folic acid a day starting at least one month before getting pregnant. Your doctor may recommend that you take more if you already have a child with a neural tube defect or if you have one yourself.
Recommended Amount and Sources
Folic acid can be found in leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, legumes and whole grains. It can also be found in fortified versions of bread, juice and cereal. However, it is difficult to get all of the folic acid necessary for a healthy pregnancy in your diet. You may need to take a prenatal vitamin that is specially designed to give you the recommended daily amount of folic acid.
Although taking folic acid can improve your chances of getting pregnant and provides important benefits for your developing baby, it is possible to take too much of it. According to The National Women's Health Information Center, you should not consume more than 1,000 mcg of folic acid a day. Too much folic acid can hide signs that you're lacking vitamin B-12, which can lead to nerve damage.