What are your New Year’s resolutions? At the start of a new year, many of us are thinking about adopting healthier habits. Some of you may also be thinking about starting a family. Establishing a healthy lifestyle is the best way to prepare for a new pregnancy in the next year. Every year in January, Folic Acid Awareness Week serves as a reminder to women about the importance of taking folic acid as part of a healthy diet.

Folic acid is a B vitamin that plays a critical role in the development of cells, making it an important part of everyone’s diet. Pregnant women are often told the importance of folic acid; however, all women of childbearing age should be aware of its benefits. Folic acid can help reduce the risk of neural tube defects when taken before and during pregnancy. Neural tube defects involve the developing baby’s brain and spine, the most common issue being spina bifida.

Folate, the natural form of folic acid, can be found in many foods, including: leafy green vegetables, beans, and citrus fruits. Certain pastas, grains, and breakfast cereals are fortified with folic acid. Although many foods are enriched with folic acid, women may still not get the recommended amount from their diet alone. The simplest way to ensure you are getting enough folic acid is to take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. During pregnancy, women should take a prenatal vitamin with 600 micrograms of folic acid. Talk to your doctor to make sure you are getting the right amount of folic acid if you are planning a pregnancy or are currently pregnant.

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