Folic acid is probably the most important B vitamin a pregnant woman can take before, during and after pregnancy. Women in their reproductive years would benefit best from starting folic acid supplements as soon as they consider starting a family. Daily folic acid intake is completely safe and effective at reducing the risk of neural tube defects that may develop during the first weeks of pregnancy before a woman even knows she's pregnant. However, as is the case with so many supplements – can you take too much folic acid?
How Much is Too Little?
Taking any folic acid is better than taking none, but any less than the recommended daily amount for pregnant women is too little for optimal protection. If you are in your reproductive years and you want to protect against neural tube defects you should take a minimum of 400 mcg of folic acid daily. The upper limit listed on the WomensHealth.gov website is 800 mcg, but is more than that too much?
How Much is Too Much?
The answer to this question is...well...questionable. The upper limit for daily supplementation is 1,000 mcg. But, there are plenty of foods that contain folic acid, including bread, cereal, flour, white rice and pasta. In a western diet these foods play a huge part, so you will consume more than the 400 to 1,000 mcg suggested.
This is another difficult question. The basic amount you need to consume daily is 400 to 800 mcg. This is in addition to the folic acid you consume in food. However, there are medical conditions that increase the amount of folic acid you need. Kidney disease, liver disease and sickle cell anemia are just a few of the conditions that increase the need for daily folic acid intake. Some medications can also increase personal recommended daily intake.
Back to the question at hand – can you take too much folic acid during pregnancy? Yes, you can overdo the supplemental intake, though there are no reports of toxic side effects. Take the amount of folic acid recommended by your family physician or gynecologist or stick to a maximum daily intake of 1,000 mcg through supplementation.