It is vital for all mums-to-be to take daily supplements of folic acid before getting pregnant - as well as for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Taking folic acid before getting pregnant is known to lower the risk of your baby suffering from any neural tube defects, such as spina bifida and hydrocephalus.
Spina bifida is a birth defect in which part of one or more vertebrae fails to develop completely, leaving part of the spinal cord exposed. Symptoms can include paralysis, incontinence or swelling of the brain (hydrocephalus).
The closure of the spinal cord and the vertebrae that surround it takes place very early in the development of an embryo, usually within four weeks of getting pregnant.
That's before you even know you're pregnant, in many cases, which is why it's important to start taking your folic acid supplements as soon as you decide to start trying for a baby.
There's another reason too why you should increase your intake of folic acid when you're in baby-making mode. Normally, folic acid is removed from the blood quite quickly, but when you're pregnant the kidneys filter it out of your blood at four times the normal rate.
So if you don't eat folic acid-rich foods or take folic acid supplements regularly, you can become relatively deficient in folic acid and your levels may drop low enough to put your baby at risk.
Experts recommend that all women who are thinking about having a baby start taking 400mcg of folic acid supplements daily, three months before trying to get pregnant.