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Why folic acid is not just for mums-to-be

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02nd Aug 2020
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We often associate folic acid with pregnant women, but did you know that all women should be taking folic acid, even if they’re not planning a baby?

There are some things we just associate with being pregnant: maternity wear, food cravings and folic acid.

While we admit, maternity leggings may have crossed our minds during lockdown – working from home can be uncomfortable – our food cravings can probably be put down to gluttony, which we are also blaming lockdown on.

But folic acid? That’s just for pregnant women, right?

Wrong, says SafeFood, the public body responsible for raising consumer awareness of issues relating to food safety and healthy eating in Ireland.

According to SafeFood, almost half of all pregnancies are unplanned, so it is essential for any woman who is sexually active to be taking folic acid.

Folic acid is a vitamin that is essential for everyone’s health, and one that women need an extra amount of during early pregnancy. It is a B vitamin called vitamin B9. Folic acid isn’t stored in the body, so you need to take it every day.

Why do I need folic acid?

According to SafeFood, folic acid tablets can help prevent certain birth defects involving the brain and spinal cord, known as neural tube defects (NTDs).

Spina bifida is one of the most common NTDs which affects about one in every 1,000 children born every year in Ireland. Spina bifida causes incomplete development of the spinal cord in the womb.

According to, studies have shown that over 70% of first-time NTDs, such as spina bifida, can be prevented by taking 0.4mg of folic acid daily.

How do I take folic acid?

Folic acid works best if you take it before and during early pregnancy. It should be taken at least three months before getting pregnant to help reduce the risk of NTDs. If you are already pregnant, it is recommended that you start taking folic acid tablets straight away and continue each day up to three months into your pregnancy.

It’s best to take folic acid as an individual supplement, according to SafeFood, because that ensures you get the right dose of 0.4mg a day.

The market leader in folic acid tablets in Ireland is Clonfolic, which are only available from your local pharmacy.

Clonfolic comes in 28 (1 month) and 98 (3 months) calendar-pack sizes. The company recommends 0.4 mg of folic acid every day for at least 14 weeks before you become pregnant and continue taking it for at least the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

For more information Clonfolic folic acid tablets, see

For more information on folic acid facts and myths, see 

Always read the label. Consult your doctor if you have a family or personal history of pregnancies resulting in neural tube defects, have diabetes, are obese, or take anti-epileptic (anti-seizure), or other medications. The tablet also includes lactose monohydrate. Keep out of sight and reach of children.

Main photo: Ignacio Campo, Unsplash