What is Folic Acid?

Author: Christine Rauch-Nell (B.Pharm) & Michelle Dateling (B.Optom, Dip.Sports Vision; MBA)

Why is Folic Acid important in Pregnancy?

Long before you miss your period or before you take that pregnancy test, you must supplement with the most important vitamin in pregnancy: FOLATE / Folic Acid.

When pregnancy starts, it follows a step-by-step process allowing for the development of the fetus into a fully grown healthy baby. During the 1st 12 weeks of pregnancy baby’s brain and spinal cord develops to form the Neural Tube. The Neural Tube closes day 21 – 28 after conception. It is therefore extremely important that mom has enough essential vitamins and minerals to ensure baby’s healthy brain and spinal cord development. Low Folate levels can cause Neural Tube Defects (NTD’s) and has also been linked to an increased risk of Pre-eclampsia and Early-Stage Recurrent Miscarriages due to Folate deficiency.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that all women who are planning to fall pregnant should start taking Folic Acid 2 to 3 months prior to conception as well as during the 1st trimester of pregnancy. If the mommy-to-be has had a previous history of neural tube defects or if she is on chronic medication, even higher than normal doses may be recommended by the Doctor / Gynaecologist. 

The terms Folate and Folic Acid are often interchanged; however, they are not the same thing! Folate and Folic Acid are different forms of vitamin B9. Folic Acid tablets for pregnancy is the synthetic (man-made) form of folate that still needs to be broken down in the body into its usable form (Folate). Folic Acid is inexpensive and widely available, but its conversion in the body into Folate is a slow and complex process. The body can only convert 200 µg of Folic Acid per day, the excess quantities get directed to the liver as potentially harmful waste products. There are also people who have genetic polymorphisms (of the enzyme MTHFR) which prevent the normal breakdown of Folic Acid. For these individuals it is essential that they take Folate instead of Folic Acid.

Folate on the other hand is a natural molecule which the body is familiar with, and this form is ready to be used. The active form of folate is known as 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF). It is the main form of folate found in the bloodstream and it can be used by the body immediately without any conversion or harmful waste products being formed. It also has a much better absorption rate and doses of 500 µg or more are safe to take. 

With the difference between Folate and Folic Acid in mind, AnaStellar Brands has formulated ALL their pregnancy supplements with the active form of Folate. Thus, allowing maximum absorption of the vitamin Folate – the most essential vitamin in early pregnancy. AnaStellar Brands has pregnancy covered with 3 different pregnancy supplements. Stellar Activ-Folate – this product contains only the active folate, Stellar-Mama – this is a comprehensive pregnancy supplement that contains vitamins and minerals for mom and baby, and Preggy-Mama – a cost conscious pregnancy vitamin solution that is also suitable for vegans. Their entire pregnancy range can be used before pregnancy, during pregnancy and during breastfeeding.

Christine Rauch-Nell B.Pharm (WITS) and Michelle Dateling B.Optom (UJ) Dip.Sports Vision (UJ) MBA (WITS)


Cavalli P. (2008). Prevention of Neural Tube Defects and proper folate periconceptional supplementation. Journal of prenatal medicine, 2(4), 40–41.

Scaglione F, and Panzavolta G. (2014) Folate, folic acid and 5-methyltetrahydrofolate are not the same thing, Xenobiotica, 44:5, 480-488, DOI: 10.3109/00498254.2013.845705.

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