Not sure how much Folic Acid you need?
Some women have a higher risk of having a baby with a Neural Tube Defect (NTD). Read our checklist to find out whether you are in a higher risk group. If so, you need to ask your GP about having a higher (5mg) dose of folic acid before you become pregnant.
A regular dose of folic acid contains 400 micrograms. This is sometimes written on packets or bottles of tablets as 400mcg or 400μg or 0.4mg.
The larger dose given to women in higher risk groups contains 5 milligrams (5mg).
Are you at greater risk?
- Have you previously conceived or given birth to a baby with an NTD such as spina bifida?
- Do either you, or your partner, have spina bifida or any family history of NTDs/spina bifida?
- Are you are taking medication to treat epilepsy? (Please also see more on epilepsy below)
- Do you have diabetes?
- Do you have a condition caused by a sensitivity to gluten (coeliac disease)?
- Are you very overweight? If so, please read the extra information below.
Extra Information if you are very overweight
If you are very overweight and considering trying for a baby, we recommend that you see your GP to discuss whether to take a higher dose of folic acid. This is because studies have shown that women who are very overweight (health professionals may use the term ‘obese’) are at higher risk of having a pregnancy affected by Neural Tube Defects (NTDs). The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists now recommend women with a BMI (Body Mass Index) over 30* wishing to become pregnant should be recommended 5mg of folic acid. You might like to show your GP the guidelines which can be found here!
*As an example, a woman who is 5 foot five inches tall, with a BMI of 30, would probably weigh just under 13 stones.
Individual GPs may have different views on the appropriate dosage since these guidelines have not been adopted by everyone in the NHS.
If anything on this list applies to you it means you could carry an increased risk of your baby developing an NTD/spina bifida, and you should see your GP before you get pregnant.Your GP can prescribe a higher dose (5mg) of folic acid for you take each day that will significantly reduce your chances of having a baby with an NTD.
Your GP or midwife may also recommend additional screenings and checks while you are pregnant.
The NHS Choices website gives a full summary of the NHS advice on this - you may like to take this information with you when you visit your GP.
Getting the dose right when YOU Go Folic!
If you find that there is any confusion over the correct dose of folic acid when you consult your GP/midwife or other health service provider then the British National Formulary (BNF) which is used throughout the health profession for reference will clearly state the correct dose for you.
And if you have epilepsy…
If you take an anti-epileptic medication you should see a neurology specialist if you might become pregnant to discuss a high dose (5mg) of folic acid as well as a possible change of medication . This is because some drugs used to treat epilepsy may not be suitable if you are pregnant. Click here for the Epilepsy Action website.