Folate is essential in the natural process of red blood cell formation. According to Marla Ahlgrimm, these red blood cells are what carry oxygen throughout the entire body. When the body doesn’t get enough oxygen to its systems, the result can be a condition called anemia. Specifically, in this case, folic acid anemia.
Women need folate at every stage. However, it’s most important to the system during the childbearing years. Folic acid can help prevent neural tube defects during fetal development. It’s suspected that receiving enough of this nutrient may also play a role in fetal viability. In other words, intaking enough folate may help prevent early miscarriage.
Folate is found naturally in many foods. These include nuts, beans, and many greens, like spinach. Most cereal and bread manufacturers also fortify their foods with folic acid, a synthetic form of the vitamin. A quality multivitamin can also supply the body with around 400 µg of folic acid, which Marla Ahlgrimm explains is what most women need each day.
Women who have previously given birth to a child with spina bifida, a common neural tube defect, or have a family history, may need to increase their intake of folic acid, says Marla Ahlgrimm. African-American and Latino women are at the highest risk of folate-deficiency anemia and related pregnancy complications. Women who are at an increased risk can potentially lessen the odds of giving birth to a child with spina bifida by increasing their folate and folic acid intake during pregnancy.