Folate vs. Folic Acid and Why it Matters For Fertility and Pregnancy

Medically reviewed by Brooke Boskovich, MS, RD, LDN

Among the key nutrients recommended during preconception, pregnancy and the postnatal period is folate. The term folate is often used interchangeably with folic acid, but while both are a form of vitamin B9, there is an important difference. Here’s what to understand about the difference between folate and folic acid, why it matters for fertility and pregnancy, and which option is best for you.

Folate versus Folic Acid

Like many nutrients, vitamin B9 can be synthesized in slightly different chemical structures. Folic acid, an inexpensive, shelf-stable ingredient that can hang out in stores for a very long time, is the form you’re most likely to see in big-brand vitamins for reasons that often benefit the vitamin company more than the person taking it.

Here’s the thing—this synthetic form of vitamin B9 is easily absorbed, but difficult for your body to use. In order to metabolize folic acid, cells first have to do the extra work of converting it into a usable nutrient. This nutrient conversion process is slow and inefficient, which means that the dose of folic acid you take may not be fully metabolized until the next day, when it’s time to take your vitamin again! 

As you might imagine, that’s an issue. Unmetabolized folic acid in the bloodstream has been associated with a laundry list of health concerns. What’s more, between 25 and 60 percent of the population has a genetic variation that decreases the efficiency of this conversion even further, which means they’re getting well below recommended amounts, if any, even when they dutifully take their vitamins.

The key difference between folate and folic acid is the source. Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9 and can be found in leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, and eggs. Unfortunately, many of us simply don’t eat a varied enough diet to ensure we’re getting adequate folate, and that deficit becomes particularly problematic if you’re trying to conceive and carry a healthy pregnancy. That’s why the recommendation for men and women of childbearing age who are trying to become parents is to take a prenatal vitamin with enough folate to support healthy fertility, pregnant, and postpartum recovery.

And Beli has you covered.

Bioavailable, Always

To ensure that parents-to-be are getting enough folate in the most absorbable form, Beli prenatal vitamins for men and women use the active, methylfolate form of folic acid known as 5-MTHF. As far back as 2011, nutritionists were recognizing prenatal supplements formulated with bioavailable nutrients, including methylfolate, as a better way to ensure adequate amounts when they’re needed most.

So we followed the science, formulating our supplements with only the most bioavailable ingredient forms for fertility and prenatal support. Beli’s bioavailable form of MTHF folate is ready to rock right away—it doesn’t need to be converted by your cells before your body can put it to use. It’s not feasible to test every single women trying for a baby for the MTHFR gene variation, and the active form of folate used in our supplements ensures adequate levels of this necessary nutrient for everyone. The superior B9 absorption from methylated folate makes sure your body has access to the folate you need for fertility and family, helping you get pregnant, stay pregnant, and deliver a healthy baby.

What about the CDC’s Recommendations?

If you’re doing any digging into the folate-versus-folic-acid debate, you’re bound to run into the CDC’s stance that folic acid is the only type of folate to help prevent neural tube defects. At one time, research did indeed support this. But it takes an average of 17 years to see changes in standard of practice guidelines, and research moves much faster than that. Clinical studies find MTHF may be a safer and more effective alternative to folic acid for preventing neural tube defects. Interestingly, researchers have also confirmed folic acid as a risk factor for infant and child allergic diseases, a link that dramatically increases with maternal folic acid intake during pregnancy.

At Beli, we’re committed to science-based recommendations based on the most current peer-reviewed studies. We know you have choices when it comes to prenatal vitamins, and it can feel overwhelming trying to figure out your best option. With Beli, you can trust that we’ve done the research on folate versus folic acid, as well as every other nutrient you need during conception and pregnancy. In addition to safe, effective formulations in the most bioavailable forms, our products are also vegan friendly, gluten and GMO free, made in an FDA-registered facility in the United States, and follow the Good Manufacturing Process Guidelines (CGMP).

Whether you’re trying for a baby or navigating pregnancy, prenatal vitamins should be the last thing you stress about. And when you’re taking Beli prenatals for him and her, you won’t.

Additional Resources

Special thanks to Becca, a fertility dietitian at Little Life Nutrition, for today's post! Becca is passionate about helping moms and dads-to-be uncover the root cause of fertility challenges, using nutrition, lifestyle, and functional lab testing to optimize her clients' chance of getting pregnant — a true "no-stone-left-unturned" approach. Here, she shares five ways to boost fertility naturally.

Read More

Most births occur between June and early November. Count back nine months, and you’ll see that places most conceptions in the fall and winter. So what’s the deal? Is it the cold weather. all the festivities, or something else driving us between the sheets? That ugly sweater is pretty cute, but you can chalk this up to reproductive seasonality. Here’s what that means, why it matters, and what to do to use it to your advantage.

Read More

Getting your ducks in a row at least three months before you hope to conceive can help nourish your fertility in preparation of everything to come. That’s where a high-quality prenatal vitamin for you both comes in. Our guide walks you through all the behind-the-scenes benefits during your first three months on Beli.

Read More

Environmental stressors, diet, and our modern lifestyles are a triple threat to men’s fertility, wreaking havoc on sperm DNA. The good news is that there are simple things you can do to combat those threats and actually increase testosterone levels, sperm count, and sperm motility, which means a greater chance of conception.

Read More

Making the decision to have a baby is an emotional roller coaster – and we aren’t just talking about the hormones. Both hopeful parents-to-be experience this individually, and both the carrying and non-carrying sides of the equation have their own set of emotions. It brings up an unexpected benefit of men’s prenatal vitamins – for both partners.

Read More

Anyone looking to boost fertility has hormones on the brain. And that makes sense. These chemical messengers regulate various systems and bodily functions, including growth, metabolism, temperature regulation, and yes, fertility. If you suspect your system is a little out of whack and you’re planning for a baby, here’s what it means to balance your hormones for fertility.

Read More

Recent studies have shown that optimal nutrition can improve egg quality. Fueling for fertility with nutrients that support egg quality can help raise your chances of getting pregnant faster and delivering a healthy baby.

Read More

It’s an interesting truth that many people trying so hard to conceive are willing to try just about anything – special herbs and teas, medications, you name it – but have often jumped straight past the fundamentals of plain ol’ good health. In the interest of keeping things simple, we’re sharing the five pillars of fertility.

Read More

PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility in women, but it doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant. Supplementing with ingredients proven to support women with PCOS can help increase your chances, and so can speaking with your doctor and dietician.

Read More

Science makes it clear that key micronutrients really do play a role in fertility. If you’re researching how exactly that works, and what exactly you should be taking, here’s what to know about the right vitamins and minerals for healthier sperm and eggs.

Read More

An icy-cold, nutrient-dense smoothie is perfect in the dog days of summer, and we've worked up a recipe that makes taking your prenatal vitamins a downright treat. Pair this Beli summer morning smoothie recipe with your Beli prenatals and drink up!

Read More

It’s 2022, and CBD has officially arrived. But what does it mean for couples, and specifically men, trying to conceive? Does CBD have an impact on male fertility? Here’s what the most current research says, and what you should keep in mind about CBD products if a baby is the plan.

Read More

Research shows that the overall health of both biological parents during the preconception window plays a huge role in everything from conception to pregnancy health to the lifetime health of their baby. Luckily, there are simple steps you can both take to improve your health together.

Read More

The decision to add another baby to the family is thrilling. But what happens if trying for baby number two or three isn’t as easy as it was the first time around? Unsurprisingly, secondary infertility can feel like a slap in the face, but understanding more about the issue is always empowering.

Read More

You know that vitamin D is one of those essential nutrients we need to be healthy, and you probably know it’s a key player during pregnancy, too. But did you know that vitamin D may directly influence fertility?

Read More

The more, the merrier may be the old saying, but that’s really not what you want happening in your prenatal vitamin. When it comes to this sort of specialized nutritional support, what’s not included is just as key as what is. That's why you won’t find DHA (among other ingredients) in our prenatal vitamin.

Read More

Here at Beli, we have what we call the "never ever" list. These are the ingredients that may be technically allowed in a supplement, but don’t meet our personal standards for safety, efficacy, or purity. As part of our ongoing commitment to transparency, we’re sharing the 7 ingredients you’ll never see in Beli prenatal vitamins (and why).

Read More

What if you could improve male fertility with the help of a simple nutrient? In this collaboration with Kat Gal, a holistic health writer, we're sharing evidence that shows L-carnitine offers numerous benefits for male fertility.

Read More

You know that vitamin D is one of those essential nutrients we need to be healthy, and you probably know it’s a key player during pregnancy, too. But did you know that vitamin D may directly influence fertility?

Read More

While everyone loves shopping for a new baby – those teensy shoes! – you may feel a little mystified about how to gift all the pregnant people in your life. Good news! We asked a bunch of them what they’d love most this holiday season. So without further ado, we present our holiday gift round-up for your very favorite pregnant people. Trust us, she’ll love it.

Read More

In the early days of your pregnancy, it’s fair to want to keep your thrilling news to yourself. But what happens over the holiday season, when you’re probably spending endless hours with your loud, loving, all-up-in-your-business family? We polled our Beli community for the hands-down best way to mask a pregnancy – morning sickness symptoms and all – if you’re dreading the next few weeks with the fam, because this is one surprise that no one should spoil.

Read More

Getting your ducks in a row at least three months before you hope to conceive can help nourish your fertility in preparation of everything to come. That’s where a high-quality prenatal vitamin for you both comes in. Our guide walks you through all the behind-the-scenes benefits during your first three months on Beli.

Read More

Arguably one of the best parts of having a baby is choosing a name, which often involves multiple books, endless lists, and a ton of back and forth. If you like the idea of leaning into science, a recent study shared in the Daily Mail used phonetics to find the 50 most beautiful-sounding baby names.

Read More

The more, the merrier may be the old saying, but that’s really not what you want happening in your prenatal vitamin. When it comes to this sort of specialized nutritional support, what’s not included is just as key as what is. That's why you won’t find DHA (among other ingredients) in our prenatal vitamin.

Read More

An icy-cold, nutrient-dense smoothie is perfect in the dog days of summer, and we've worked up a recipe that makes taking your prenatal vitamins a downright treat. Pair this Beli summer morning smoothie recipe with your Beli prenatals and drink up!

Read More

Who doesn't love a good charcuterie board? And before you assume these delicious hors d'oeuvres are automatically off the table once you see those two pink lines, we have good news. The Gourmet Shop has a killer list of pregnancy-safe cheeses and accompaniments that will absolutely hit the spot.

Read More