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A Lesson on Prenatal Vitamins and Proper Intake of Folic Acid

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September 10, 2013
Trying to conceive? Gearing up for fertility treatment? Surely you are taking all steps possible to get your body ready for the journey to parenthood. But, have you given enough thought to the amount of folic acid in your prenatal vitamin?

The CDC recommends that women of childbearing age take a supplement of 400 micrograms of folic acid per day to reduce the risk of birth defects, but many OB-GYNs and fertility doctors recommend that patients consume a full 1 milligram (mg) of folic acid to receive the maximum benefit of the supplement. Only prescription prenatal vitamins contain 1 mg of folic acid, though even this amount may not be enough if your body cannot metabolize folic acid properly.

A new form of folic acid on the market, Quatrefolic® acid, is designed to be consumed without metabolism. The nutrients in the supplement can be processed by the body in its existing form. Quatrefolic® acid comes with limited availability in supplements produced by Avion Pharmaceuticals and vitaMedMD. “Up to fifty percent of women can’t metabolize folic acid so they do not receive the full benefit. Quatrefolic® acid bypasses the mechanism in the body that prevents women from properly metabolizing folic acid,” says Mary Claire Kenworthy of Avion Pharmaceuticals. Current research suggests there are benefits to consuming a prenatal vitamin with prescription strength folic acid; benefits that may not be received from an over the counter variety of prenatal vitamin or folic acid supplement. Prenate® (Avion) and Plus Rx (vitaMedMD) are two examples of prenatal vitamins that include quatrefolic acid.

The benefits of Quatrefolic® acid include:

  • Dosage in the recommended prescription amount of 1 milligram
  • Quatrefolic® acid can penetrate cells and aid in fetal development without being metabolized further
  • Quatrefolic® acid helps fight folate deficiency which is essential to preventing birth defects
  • The supplement can be consumed by women who are trying to conceive, in fertility treatment, or pregnant

Because the fetus draws essential nutrients from the mother, it is important for the mother to increase her own supplement intake not only with folate supplements, but calcium, iron, and DHA as well.

“Makers of over-the-counter prenatal vitamins have to keep the costs down and cannot put prescription levels of folic acid into their vitamins. Doctors don’t always explain the benefits of these supplements so it is important for women to do the research. A woman going into the discussion of trying to conceive, fertility treatment, or just found out she’s pregnant owes it to herself to ask questions, get information, and learn the benefits of each supplement rather than just taking the samples provided by her doctor,” Kenworthy advises. Women should work with their OB-GYN or fertility doctor and do their own investigating (rather than just relying on word of mouth recommendations or assuming all prenatal vitamins are the same) to fully understand the benefits of consuming prescription prenatal vitamins and the recommended doses of each supplement.

Some pharmaceutical companies also offer rebates and discounts for prescription prenatal vitamins. For more information on fertility coupons, promotions, and discounts, visit


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