WHAT IS FOLATE? Folate or folic acid is a B group vitamin that is essential for many basic biological processes such as DNA production and cell division.

FOLATE in FERTILITY  – Folate is one of the many key nutrients for female fertility. One of the most important function of folic acid in fertility is its role in cell metabolism in your ovaries. A recent study found that folic acid supplementation in women undergoing IVF was associated with better embryo quality and increased chances of becoming pregnant.

FOLATE in PREGNANCY – Folate is essential to the healthy development of babies in early pregnancy. A baby’s  growth is the fastest in the first weeks of life – often before most women are aware that they are pregnant. Consuming enough folate significantly reduces the risk of neural tube defects.

Over 600 pregnancies in Australia every year are affected by neural tube defects. Neural tube defects (NTD) are a group of birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. It results from the failure of closure of baby’s developing spine or skull, which causes the opening of the spine or brain. The two most common NTDs are spina bifida and anencephaly. Baby’s spine and brain fusion occur very early in pregnancy therefore it is essential for women to consume enough folate especially at start of the pregnancy to reduce the risk of NTDs in their baby.

HOW MUCH FOLATE DO WE ACTUALLY NEED? The Recommended Daily Intake of Folate for pregnant mums is 600mcg/day.

When planning to conceive, it is extremely important to eat a diet rich in folate. A folic acid supplement may also be recommended to help meet the increased folate requirements for pregnancy. You may have to take a daily folic acid supplement at least one month before conception. This is in addition to a diet rich in folic acid. Be sure to speak to your doctor & Dietitian about folate when you are planning/trying to conceive.


Folate is found naturally in foods such as fruit, vegetables, legumes and fortified breads and cereals.

Fruit & Vegetables such as:

  • Green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach, kale)
  • Asparagus
  • Pumpkin
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Avocado

Legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and beans.

Since 2009, all bread-making flour in Australia (except organic flour) have been fortified with folic acid. The bread you consume now contains folic acid. In fact, 3 slices of bread (~100g) contains an average of 120mcg of folic acid.

Another key point to note is that folate is very water-soluble and is sensitive to heat and light, therefore longer storage and cooking times of folate-rich foods can deplete folate content in foods. The best way to ensure you are getting the most folate out of the foods you consume is to eat a diet high in minimally processed fruit and vegetables. Avoid storing fruit and vegetables for long periods of time and avoid boiling foods as folate can leach out into the water during the cooking process. Instead, try eating fresh greens or steaming/microwaving your vegetables. Choose fresh fruit instead of canned varieties as the process of canning fruit uses high heat which can result in the loss of folate and other nutrients.


Folate is extremely important during both preconception and pregnancy, as it can reduce the risk of neural tube defects in babies during pregnancy. Focus on eating a well-balanced diet filled with fresh fruit, vegetables and wholegrains. Folic acid supplementation may be required during the early stages of pregnancy, therefore remember to speak to your doctor about folate as soon as you find out you’re having a baby.

Everyone’s fertility and pregnancy journey is going to be different, and nutritional requirements vary depending on many factors. If you require more individualised advice, get in touch with one of our Accredited Practising Dietitians so we can support you through your fertility and pregnancy journey. You can book into one of our nearest clinics or contact us (0432 194 344 or for online consults.