All reproductive age women should be on a vitamin containing Folic Acid (B9). Even those women who are not planning conception should consider taking a vitamin containing folic acid in case there is an unplanned pregnancy.
It is important to be on the vitamins before you attempt to conceive as your baby will be forming its nervous system BEFORE you even know you are pregnant. Many birth defects associated with folic acid occur in the FIRST FEW DAYS OF PREGNANCY. Taking folic acid (B9) can lower the chance of brain and spinal cord birth defects. Closure of the neural tube is complete by the 28th day of pregnancy (6 weeks after the last menstrual period). Failure of this tube to close can lead to serious birth defects of the skull, brain, spinal cord and vertebra.
B vitamins including folic acid/folate are important for the development of new cells in the body. Most women do not get enough of these vitamins in their food which makes supplementation important. It is also important to note that we do not store these vitamins in our bodies, again making supplementation necessary.
Most vitamins contain at least 400 mcg of Folic Acid so it is OK to take a multi-vitamin if you prefer since this is the minimum dose recommended in women wishing to conceive. Prescription prenatal vitamins contain a minimum of 1000 mcg of folic acid in them. There are certain conditions that require you to take a higher dose of folic acid. Folic acid is considered to be non-toxic; therefore, taking higher doses should not be of concern .Speak with your ObGYN prior to attempting conception to be sure you are taking enough. The most important thing when choosing a PNV is to choose one that you can tolerate and that you will take on a daily basis. You may have to try several to find one that is right for you.
You can get folic acid from food as well! Try eating lost of green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, and citrus fruits.