Folic acid is the synthetic version of the vitamin folate, also known as vitamin B9.
Folate helps the body make healthy red blood cells and is found in certain foods.
Folic acid is used to:
- treat or prevent folate deficiency anaemia
- help your baby's brain, skull and spinal cord develop properly in pregnancy, to avoid development problems (called neural tube defects) such as spina bifida
- help reduce side effects from methotrexate, a medicine used to treat severe arthritis, Crohn's disease or psoriasis
Folic acid is available on prescription. It comes as tablets or as a liquid you swallow.
You can also buy lower dose tablets from pharmacies and supermarkets.
Folic acid can also be combined with:
- ferrous fumarate and ferrous sulphate, to treat iron deficiency anaemia
- other vitamins and minerals, as a multivitamin and mineral supplement
- You'll usually take folic acid once a day, but sometimes you'll only need to take it once a week. Your doctor will explain how often to take it.
- Most adults and children can take folic acid.
- If you're pregnant or trying to get pregnant, it's recommended you take folic acid until you're 12 weeks pregnant. It helps your baby grow normally.
- You're unlikely to get side effects with folic acid, but some people feel sick, lose their appetite, get wind or feel bloated. These side effects are usually mild and do not last long.
- It's best not to drink alcohol while taking folic acid, as it can stop your folic acid from working as well.