Folate (also known as folic acid) is a B-group vitamin essential for the healthy development of the fetus in early pregnancy, in particular their neural tube. Women of child-bearing age should take extra folate daily to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Even women who aren’t planning to have a baby should increase their folate intake because about half of all pregnancies in Australia are unplanned.
Folate taken before conception and during the first few weeks of pregnancy can prevent seven out of ten cases of neural tube defects. Over 600 pregnancies in Australia every year are affected by neural tube defects.