USPSTF to Pregnant Women: Take Folic Acid to Prevent Neural Tube Defects


In a statement released this week, the US Preventive Services Task Force made an A recommendation that all women who are planning or able to become pregnant take a daily supplement containing 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid.1

Taking folic acid before and during pregnancy can help protect babies against neural tube defects, according to the recommendation. The statement also notes that the critical period when folic acid supplements provide the most protective benefits begins 1 month before becoming pregnant and continues through the first 3 months of pregnancy.

Folic acid is found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, but most women do not get the recommended dose of 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid per day through diet alone, according to the statement.

“The Task Force found convincing evidence that the risk of neural tube defects can be reduced when women take a daily folic acid supplement of 400 to 800 micrograms,” says Task Force member Alex R. Kemper, MD, MPH, MS. “These supplements can be taken as a daily multivitamin, prenatal vitamin, or single tablet that has the recommended amount of folic acid.”


1. USPSTF. Folic Acid Supplementation for the Prevention of Neural Tube DefectsUS Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement.

JAMA. 2017;317(2):183-189. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.19438.

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