Folic acid is the synthetic version of vitamin B9 (vitamin folate). Vitamin B9 helps in the production of healthy red blood cells in the body and it can be found in certain foods. There are various used of folic acid, it can be used to: prevent or treat folate deficiency anaemia; helps your unborn baby’s brain, spinal cord, and skull develop properly to avoid development issues (neural tube defects) for example spinal bifida.
Folic acid can also reduce the side effects caused by methotrexate, a medicine used to treat severe psoriasis, crohn’ disease or arthritis. Folic acid is normally prescription based and come in tablets and liquid form. You can get lower dose of folic acid in pharmacies and supermarkets.
Facts about folic acid
- Most children and adults can take it
- If you’re trying for a baby or pregnant, it’s recommended that you take folic acid until you’re twelve weeks pregnant. It helps in the normal growth of the baby.
- Folic acid is taken once a day, but sometimes you only need it once a week
- Folic acid is also called by the brand names lexpex and preconceive.
- Folic acid usual doesn’t have side effects, but in some cases, you can feel sick, get wind or feel bloated and loss of appetites.
Who can’t take folic acid?
Most children and adults can take folic acid but is not suitable for everyone.
To make sure it’s safe for you, tell your doctor before starting folic acid if you:
- Have an allergic reaction to folic acid or any other medicine in the past
- Have cancer (unless you also have folate deficiency anaemia)
- Have a stent in your heart
- Are having a type of kidney dialysis called haemodialysis.
When to take it?
If you have been prescribed folic acid, follow your doctor’s instructions about how to and when to take it. If you get your folic acid from a pharmacy or shop, follow the instructions that come with the packet.
How much will I take?
This depends on why you need folic acid.
Before and during pregnancy
For women that are trying to get pregnant and during the twelve weeks of pregnancy are advised to take 400 micrograms, taken once a day. In the case of high-risk neural defects during pregnancy, doctor will recommend a higher dose of 5mg, taken once a day.
Folate deficiency anaemia
For anaemia treatment, the usual dose for adults and children over 1 year of age is 5mg, taken once a day, for four months. Sometimes the dose may increase to 15mg a day depending on the severity of the anaemia.
If the child is under 12 months old, the doctor will use your child’s weight to work out the appreciate dose.
To prevent anaemia, the usual dose for adults and children over 12 years old is 5mg, taken every 1 to 7 days. This depends on your age, diet and any other health condition you may have.
For children less than 12 years old, the doctor will use your child’s age or weight to work out the right dose.
Will my dose go up or down?
Usually your dose will stay the same.
Your dose may go up, however, if you’re taking folic acid to prevent or treat anaemia and blood tests show it’s not working properly.
Is there side effect?
Like all medicines, folic acid can cause side effects in some people. But many people have no side effects or only minor ones.
Common side effects
Talk to your pharmacist or doctor if these side effects bother you or do not go away:
- feeling sick (nausea) – but if you’re pregnant, this is more likely to be morning sickness
- loss of appetite
- bloating or wind
Serious allergic reaction
In rare cases, folic acid can cause a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).
How you can cope with side effects
What to do about:
- feeling sick – take folic acid with, or just after, a meal or snack to ease feelings of sickness. If you’re pregnant, it could be morning sickness that’s making you feel sick.
- loss of appetite – eat when you’d usually expect to be hungry. If it helps, eat smaller meals more often than usual. Snack when you’re hungry. Have nutritious snacks that are high in calories and protein, such as dried fruit and nuts.
- bloating or wind – it might help to eat smaller and more frequent meals, eat and drink slowly, and exercise regularly. If the symptoms get worse, contact your doctor straight away.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Usually, folic acid is safe to take during pregnancy.
If you’re pregnant or trying for a baby, it’s recommended you take folic acid as soon as you start trying for a baby and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. This will help your baby grow normally.
Your doctor may advise you to take a higher dose of folic acid if there’s a higher risk of neural tube defects during your pregnancy.
You may have a higher risk if:
- you have previously had a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect
- you or your partner have a neural tube defect
- you or your partner have a family history of neural tube defects
- you have diabetes
- you’re very overweight
- you have sickle cell disease
- you’re taking certain epilepsy medicines
NOTE: This information is for educational purpose, it’s not meant to serve as a consult but a guideline. It’s meant for awareness. If you want to use folic acid, please speak to your doctor or physician and they I’ll advise and explain to you better and according to your medical history.