Nurturing life Your reference in perinatal nutrition, from pregnancy to childhood

Does a pregnant woman who has a parent with a neural tube defect need more folic acid?

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By : Nurturing Life's Nutrition Team | Montreal Diet Dispensary
acide folique


Some women may require more folic acid when their baby is at moderate or high risk of having a neural tube defect or other birth defects related to folic acid. Family history on the 1st or 2nd degree (eg parents, grandparents, siblings) is a moderate risk factor.

Health Canada recommends that all pregnant women or women who wish to become pregnant take a multivitamin containing 0.4 mg of folic acid (English version to follow) daily to prevent neural tube defects. However, women whose babies are at higher risk may need a larger dose.

Pregnant women should consult a health care professional about this if they present any of the following:

  • Neural tube defect in a previous pregnancy
  • Personal history or spouse with a neural tube defect
  • Family history of neural tube defects in the 1st or 2nd degree (eg parents, grandparents, siblings, uncles, etc. This includes the parents of the spouse)
  • Diabetes type I or II
  • Personal or family history of other birth defects related to folic acid (certain heart defects, cleft lip, etc.)
  • Anticonvulsant drugs or other medications that affect folic acid levels
  • Intestinal malabsorption, which decreases the absorption of folic acid (eg Crohn’s disease, active Celiac disease, advanced liver disease, bariatric surgery, dialysis, alcohol abuse).

In the presence of type I or type II diabetes, or when certain drugs are taken during pregnancy, it is recommended to ask a doctor if the folic acid requirements are thereby increased. If there are birth defects in the pregnant woman or a family member, it is relevant to ask a doctor if this is a folic acid-sensitive anomaly, in which case a lack of folic acid can represent a risk factor for the development of this abnormality in the baby.

It is important to note, however, that it is not recommended to take more than 1 mg of folic acid daily without prescription, because high doses of this vitamin can mask a vitamin B12 deficiency. Concretely, this means do not exceed the recommended dose of a multivitamin daily. If folic acid addition is necessary, it can be taken in a single pill, always under medical advice.



The Public Health Agency of Canada has contributed financially to the production of Nurturing Life.

The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the official views of the Public Health Agency of Canada.