January 19, 2023

What's the Difference Between Folate and Folic Acid?

Folate and folic acid are vital when it comes to the healthy development of your cell growth and function. While the two are often used interchangeably and are closely related, there are some key differences.

To put it simply, folic acid is the synthetic form of folate used in supplements and flour-based foods like rice, pasta, bread, and some breakfast cereals. Folate, as you might guess, is naturally occurring and used to describe many different forms of vitamin B9.

Most people can get a healthy dose of it from folate-rich foods, but for women—especially those who might be pregnant—it can be difficult to get the right amount in a day. In fact, those who are pregnant need ten times the amount of folate than those who aren’t.

In this blog, we’ll help you better understand the difference between the two and their roles in supporting your fertility and pregnancy.

The Role of Folate and Folic Acid in Pregnancy

When you become pregnant, it’s more common to experience a drop in your folate levels. Your body is working overtime to help support the development of a healthy baby, which creates the need for more of this essential vitamin for both you and your child.

If you have a sustained deficiency, your child could be at risk of developing defects such as neural tube defects, heart abnormalities, cleft lip, and cleft palate. It also puts the mother at risk of anemia, miscarriage, low birth rate, and preterm birth. This is especially true during the first 28 days of pregnancy when the neural tube first develops.

There are a few ways to ensure you have enough folate during your pregnancy. Some foods are naturally higher in this vitamin, such as dark leafy greens, peas, nuts, beans, oranges, lemons, melons, bananas, strawberries, and cereal.

Your doctor may also recommend that you take a folate supplement and will advise you on the correct dose and how long you should take it. Taking too much folic acid can also be detrimental to your health, causing and masking a B12 deficiency. This could lead to megaloblastic anemia (where your bone marrow produces unusually large and abnormal red blood cells) or severe nerve damage.

Folates, Folic Acid, and IVF

Folates and folic acid help improve fertility in both men and women, and it’s recommended that those looking to become pregnant monitor their levels to help with conception. It ensures that you are in peak health and prepares your body to support your child’s development.

A recent study found that higher folate levels positively affect those going through infertility treatment, like in vitro fertilization. Of the women studied, those with higher folate levels saw higher success rates for implantation and pregnancy and were at a lower risk of miscarriage or cycle failure.

VFP Pharmacists and Nurses are Here to Help

Whether it’s questions about the difference between folate and folic acid or how to properly use your fertility medications, our expert team of pharmacists and nurses are here to help you feel empowered when starting treatment. We’re available 24/7/365 for any non-emergency help you may need; give us a call or send us a message.