Folic acid is a vitamin (B9). It is found in certain foods and it can also be taken as tablet. Birth defects occur within the first 3-4 weeks of pregnancy. Folic acid can help prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects, including spina bifida. Once you reach 12 weeks pregnant your baby's spine will have developed, so you can stop taking folic acid if you wish. However you can continue to take supplements after 12 weeks if you choose to and it won't harm your baby to do so.
Folic acid is an important vitamin for both men and women. Getting enough folic acid can help decrease the risk of birth defects, and it may improve sperm count in men. They do make fertility supplements for men and women who are trying to conceive. Recommended dose for all women of childbearing age is 400 mcg of folate each day.
If you do not get enough folic acid before and during pregnancy, your baby is at higher risk for neural tube defects. Neural tube defects are serious birth defects that affect the spine, spinal cord, or brain and may cause death. Without enough folic acid in your body, your baby's neural tube may not close correctly and she could develop health problems called neural tube defects. These include:
Spina bifida: incomplete development of the spinal cord or the vertebrae
Anencephaly: incomplete development of major parts of the brain
If you’ve already given birth to a child with a neural tube defect, you may need higher doses of folic acid in the months leading up to your next pregnancy and during the first few months of pregnancy