Medical Q&As

Folic acid - safe?

Is it safe to take folic acid supplements when you are not trying for a baby? I was recently told a woman should take them for all their fertile years in case of unexpected pregnancy.

Many pregnancies that occur are unplanned, which is the reason why it is suggested that women of child-bearing years should ensure that they are getting sufficient folate or folic acid in their diets every day. It is estimated that if all pregnant women had been receiving adequate amounts of folic acid at the time of conception that up to 70% of neural tube defects could be prevented. Neural tube defects include such conditions as anencephaly and spina bifida. Folic acid is an essential element in the normal diet and if it were absent anaemia would ensue. Therefore not only is it safe but it is necessary for good health. Many foods such as bread, pasta, rice and cereals have been enriched with added folate. Some breakfast cereals contain the recommended daily allowance of folic acid.