Folate (the natural form of folic acid) is an important nutrient, especially for those trying to conceive or already pregnant.


By Halle Tecco

Folate is a B vitamin found in many foods. Folate is also known as folacin or vitamin B9, and the synthetic form of folate is called folic acid. Folate is an important part of any diet, but especially important for pregnant people because it has been shown to help prevent neural tube defects (NTDs).  NTDs occur when the neural tube does not close properly in the womb; the two most common NTDs are spina bifida (a spinal cord defect) and anencephaly (a brain defect).

Folate is so important that in 1998, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began requiring folic acid to be added to enriched grain products. Researchers found that since implementing mandatory folic acid fortification, we have prevented about 1,300 babies from being born with NTDs each year and nearly eliminated folate-deficiency anemia. But even with folate fortification of foods, it is suggested that pregnant women supplement their diet with at least 400 mcgs of folate daily. 

The CDC recommends all women of reproductive age to get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folate every day, in addition to consuming food with folate from a varied diet.

While folate deficiency is uncommon in the United States, it has been found that pregnant women and non-black Hispanic women are at higher risk of folate deficiency. Causes of folate deficiency include a diet lacking enough folate, alcoholism, impaired absorption of folate due to conditions such as celiac disease, and increased demand from pregnancy. 

In addition to increasing the risk of NTDs, a lack of folate during pregnancy may increase the risk of diabetes-associated congenital disabilities and autism.

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Symptoms of folate deficiency

Common symptoms of folate deficiency can include:

  • Tiredness and fatigue 
  • Reduced sense of taste
  • Diarrhea 
  • Numbness and tingling in the feet and hands
  • Muscle weakness
  • Depression
  • Feeling faint
  • Pale skin
  • Headaches

Folate deficiency is also known to be associated with disturbances of mood and even spinal cord syndromes similar to those seen in vitamin B12 deficiency. Because folate and vitamin B12 deficiencies share similar signs and symptoms, doctors generally test folate and vitamin B12 levels at the same time.

How folate deficiency is treated

Typically, a folate supplement (1 to 5mg daily) is recommended to treat folate deficiency. According to the Mayo Clinic, treatment of folate deficiency anemia includes diet modification and taking folate supplements. Once your body's level of folate increases to normal, you may be able to stop taking the supplements. But if the cause of your folate deficiency can't be corrected, you may need to take folate supplements indefinitely.

As always, if you have concerns about if you are getting the right amount of folate in your diet, talk to your doctor. 

The Natalist Prenatal for her contains 800 mcg of folate per serving. The Natalist MTHF Folate contains 1 mg (1,000 mcg) per tablet. Both are made from high bioavailability methylfolate for maximum efficacy and potency.