Researchers are always trying determine ways to protect babies against birth defects.
Previous guidelines recommended one milligram daily — the amount found in many prenatal vitamins.
The new recommendations are being directed at all women of childbearing age because many pregnancies are often unplanned, with moms sometimes not knowing they are expecting for weeks. Folic acid taken early in the pregnancy can drastically reduce neural tube defects and other problems such as congenital heart disease, oral facial clefts, limb defects and some pediatric cancers.
The new guidelines come from experts with the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada and the Motherisk Program at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
“The good news is that a lot of this heartache can be very easily prevented. Women just need to take multivitamins containing a little more folic acid, and they need to start taking it at least three months before becoming pregnant,” said Dr. Vyta Senikas, the associate executive vice-president with the SOCG.
Food that are already rich in folate, are spinach, chick peas and asparagus.
Experts are also calling on the government to dramatically increase folic acid supplementation in products that are already fortified, such as white flour, cornmeal and enriched pasta.