Women of childbearing age should take 400 mcg of folic acid, aka folate, daily, say the March of Dimes and the Institute of Medicine.
Folate has been proven to prevent neural tube defects (affecting the spine and brain) in the very early weeks of pregnancy, when many women don’t know they’re pregnant. Once in the know, a pregnant woman should be sure to get 600 mcg of folic acid daily.
Folate deficiency has been shown to cause prematurity and low birth weight in babies. Women who’ve had a child with neural tube or other defects should take 4,000 mcg (4 milligrams) of folic acid before and during pregnancy. This B vitamin exists in dark, leafy greens; citrus fruits; whole-grain breads and folate-fortified foods.