Synthetic vs Activated Folate: What’s the Difference and Why It Matters

If you’re trying to fall pregnant, folate is probably the most important nutrient for pre-conception. Even before you start trying to conceive, it’s a good idea to be taking a prenatal vitamin or a pre-conception tablet that contains folate.

But did you know there’s a big difference between activated folate and synthetic folate? While both are forms of folate, activated folate is a lot easier for your body to absorb and provides the best for both mum and bub.

Unfortunately, many prenatal vitamins contain synthetic folate. And this is where the problem lies.

pregnancy questions
Folate is very important to support the development of your baby. Source: Bigstock

If you are trying to conceive, it’s a good idea to have a quick read on the importance of folate and why activated folate is your best option.

We break it down below:

First things first, what is folate? 

Folate is a natural form of vitamin B9 and plays a pretty important role in our bodies.


  • Helps to form DNA and RNA
  • Aids in protein metabolism
  • Assists in breaking down homocysteine, an amino acid that can exert harmful effects on the body if it is present in high amounts
  • Produces healthy red blood cells

Folate is important for everyone, but it’s especially important during pregnancy and foetal development.

Folic acid, Folinic acid and Activated folate 

Are all of these things the same? Not quite.

  • Folic acid is the man-made form of folate or the synthesized folate version. It’s often added to foods as well as vitamins.
  • Folinic acid is another one you may have heard of. This is a naturally occurring form of folate and can be found in supplements. It bypasses several conversion steps and is therefore much more bioavailable to the body when compared with folic acid.
  • Activated folate is also a natural form of folate but it can be used directly by the body without any conversion. It’s also known as 5-MTHF and is your best option when looking into folate supplements. Activated folate is found naturally in certain foods such as green veggies and fruits but it can also be added to certain prenatal vitamins. Perdays Preconception Activated Folate & B-Vitamins, for example, contain Quatrefolic®, which is an active form of folate.

Basically, if you’re looking at it from a tiered perspective, folic acid is the lowest tier, folinic acid is the middle tier, and at the top – the creme de la creme in the world of folate.

Activated folate has been proven to be the best choice in early pregnancy. Source: Supplied

Activated vs synthetic folate 

You’ve probably heard that folic acid, or synthetic folate, is important for pregnancy, which is true, but research shows that activated folate is actually a lot more beneficial*. 

The reason is that 33% of women cannot absorb synthetic folate due to something called the MTHFR gene variants. This isn’t anything to be concerned about – it simply means that the enzyme that’s responsible for activating folic acid, isn’t doing its job as well as it should.

Most women are not aware if they are in the 33% or not which is why we recommend opting for activated folate over synthetic folate. If you are trying to conceive and looking for the assurance your body is absorbing the essential folate, then always go for a pre-pregnancy vitamin with activated folate.  

Perdays Activated Folate for pregnancy
Source: Supplied

Folate during pregnancy – why it matters

Folate is important for everyone, but it’s especially important during pregnancy. Without adequate folate in pregnancy, your baby’s neural tube may not close correctly, thus leading to a neural tube defect.

There are two severe neural tube defects, both of which you’ve probably heard of – anencephaly, which is a neural tube defect in the brain and spina bifida which is a defect in the spine. Both can be devastating, leading to severe disability, impairment in movement and sadly, death in many instances.

Multiple studies have confirmed that taking 400mg – 800mg of folate daily can reduce the risk of anencephaly and spina bifida.

In addition to reducing the risk of neural tube defect, folate is also proven to:

  • Reduce the risk of babies being born with a cleft lip.
  • Reduce the risk of preeclampsia, premature birth and miscarriage.
  • Assist with the conception stages of pregnancy. One study found that taking activated folate can improve egg quality and increase the chance of getting pregnant.

Pre-pregnancy vitamins – why they matter 

When it comes to your pregnancy journey, you’re probably going to take a prenatal vitamin but even when you are in the TTC or planning stages, it’s a good idea to look into pre-pregnancy vitamins

Birth defects like spina bifida and anencephaly occur within the first 3-4 weeks of pregnancy – so very, very early! In fact, you might not even know you’re pregnant by then.

spina bifida due to low folic acid
Folic acid can help to prevent spina bifida too. Source: Adobe Stock

Our recommendation is to look into Perdays Preconception Activated Folate & B-Vitamins. This is something you take BEFORE pregnancy and during the first month.

Not only does it contain 500mcg activated folate, but it’s also precisely balanced with other B vitamins including B2, B3, B6 and B12 to support the metabolisation of folate.

Their prepregnancy vitamins are Australian-made and suitable for vegetarians and vegans too.

Source: Supplied

If you are considering a baby in the not-too-distant future, then we highly recommend considering a supplement that does contain activated folate, not only for the wellness of bub, but also for your own peace of mind. There’s nothing worse than stressing that something could be wrong, especially during the already-stressful first trimester.

Perdays Preconception Activated Folate & B-Vitamins can offer the comfort that you’re doing everything you can to provide your bub with the very best start.

Buy now, save 15%

Now’s a really good time to stock up on Perdays Preconception Activated Folate & B-Vitamins. You can get a two-month supply for 15% off with the code MUM15 at checkout. 

mum central

Be sure to check out the entire range of Perdays products for pregnancy and preconception.

They’ve got pregnancy and preconception vitamins plus fertility supplements for men and several bundles to ensure you’re getting adequate nutrients throughout your pregnancy journey.

Source: Supplied

Perdays source, test and manufacture the latest evidence-based pregnancy formulations, and deliver them to the body, in the most bio-available forms, exactly where they’re needed, for the best chance of absorption. You can view their full range here. 

This is a sponsored post for Perdays

* Source

Do not use if the seal is broken or missing. Vitamins and minerals can only be of assistance if dietary intake is inadequate. Advise your doctor of any medication you take during pregnancy, particularly in your first trimester. If you are concerned about the health of yourself or your baby, talk to your health practitioner. 

Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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