Folic acid is important in the body's ability to make healthy new cells for a fetus. Scientist's are unable to determine how folic acid works in pregnancy but they know that it's important to form cells needed to for a baby's brain, spine, organs, skin and bone. Birth defect's of a fetus's brain and spinal cord happen in the first weeks of pregnancy often before a woman know's that she is pregnant. Therefore it is important to take folic acid before she plans to get pregnant.
Folic acid is of the B-Complex vitamins important in correct neural tube development. The recomended daily dosage for women who are in childbearing age is 400 micrograms and for women who have had a child with a neural tube defect, the doctor can precribe taking 4 to 5 miligrams a day. Studies have shown that taking folic acid before getting pregnant resulted in 70% of all neural tube defects being prevented.
Folic acid is found in many leafy, green vegtables, orange juice, dried beans and peas. It is difficult to get enough folic acid by diet alone. Cooking can wash out some of the folates and with cereals fortified with folic acid the folates can be lost in the milk if it's not drank. In the USA, many of the grain products are fortified with folic acid.