Folate, also known as folic acid and vitamin B9, is recommended during pregnancy to reduce the risk of neural tube defects (openings in the spinal cord or brain, such as spina bifida) in the baby. As all the baby’s organs are developed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, it is important to ensure that you have the right Folate intake at least one month, preferably three months, before planning to get pregnant as you often don’t realise you’re pregnant for the first four to five weeks.
If you are planning to get pregnant, you should take daily folic acid supplements of 500 micrograms up to 12 weeks gestation. Women who are on anti-epilepsy medications are recommended to take 5mg folic acid supplements daily. These supplements are readily available at pharmacies.
Foods which are rich in folate include dark leafy greens (such as spinach), asparagus, broccoli, citrus fruits, avocado, lentils, beans, peas amongst many others.