- Folic acid is a synthetic version of folate, a B-vitamin that helps out with neural tube development during pregnancy, as well as gene expression and neurotransmitter support.
- But due to a genetic variation that affects nearly 40% of women, folic acid might be more difficult to absorb. Learn why we recommend looking for a different form of folate in your prenatal multivitamin.
Let’s be clear about one thing straight away: Folate is really important for pregnancy. This B vitamin (B9, to be exact) is an essential nutrient that supports neural tube development during pregnancy. And beyond supporting your baby, it’s important for you too. It’s involved with gene expression, helps make the neurotransmitters in your brain involved with mood regulation, and supports red blood cell formation. In other words, folate is a big-time overachiever—which is exactly what you want to support a healthy pregnancy.
Notice how we’re emphasizing folate rather than folic acid? That’s because while folic acid supplements get a lot of buzz as a prenatal must-have, folic acid may not be the most ideal form of folate for your body to use. Let’s get into it below, so you know exactly what you should be looking for in your prenatal vitamin.
Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate.
Chances are you’re consuming some natural folate on a daily basis—food sources include leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, and legumes such as kidney beans and lentils. The problem is that this isn’t a totally reliable way to ensure that you’re getting all the folate you need, since the nutrient can break down if those foods are chopped or cooked. That’s why supplementation is a good idea.
Lots of supplements opt for folic acid, a synthetic form of folate, because it’s highly stable and better at entering your intestinal cells than natural folate. But for many women, folic acid is actually still more difficult to absorb—which means that even if you’re supplementing, it may be harder to get the full benefits.