Folate is a B vitamin also known as folic acid. Other names include folacin and vitamin B9. In general, folate helps the body form healthy red blood cells (a lack of folate could lead to folate deficiency anemia) and more importantly reduces the risk of birth defects called neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in unborn babies.
In case of pregnancy or trying for pregnancy, it's recommended to take a folic acid supplement daily until the 12th week of conception. Folic acid supplements need to be taken before pregnancy, so it is recommended to start taking them before stopping the use of contraception or if there's a chance of pregnancy. This is to help prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in the baby. Some women have an increased risk of having a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect and are advised to take a higher dose of folic acid each day until they're 12 weeks pregnant.
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