Folate blood test
- Folate is an important nutrient for growth, development, and the correct function of your red blood cell and nerve tissues.
- The folate blood test checks for levels of folate in your blood and red blood cells.
- Low folate can prevent your red blood cells from developing normally and can cause nerve damage.
- Your folate levels can be affected by different conditions or medicines, and your diet.
- You may need to fast for 6 to 8 hours before your folate blood test.
What is being tested?
Folate is an important nutrient for making red blood cells and for repairing cells and nerve tissue in your body.
A folate blood test checks if you have enough folate.
This test examines levels of folate in your:
- blood (serum folate)
- red blood cells (RBC folate)
Usually, this test also checks for levels of vitamin B12 in your blood. This vitamin, also known as cobalamin, plays very similar roles to folate in your body.
Why would I need this test?
There are many reasons you might need a folate blood test.
Low folate levels can:
- stop your body from producing enough red blood cells (anaemia).
- prevent your red blood cells from developing normally
- cause nerve damage
If you have symptoms of anaemia or neuropathy (pain, weakness, numbness or tingling) you may need a folate blood test.
You might also have this test if you are having treatment for low folate or low vitamin B12. This is so your doctor can check how well your treatment is working.
How to prepare for this test
You might be asked to fast for 6 to 8 hours before the blood test is taken.
Understanding your results
There are many possible reasons for a low folate level.
- You might not be getting enough folate from your diet.
- Your body might not be absorbing folate from the food you eat.
- Your body might be losing folate due to a medicine you take.
- Your body might be losing folate due to a liver or kidney condition.
- You might need more folate than usual, such as if you’re pregnant.
You should discuss your results with your doctor. They can help you understand what they mean for you.
Resources and support
About folate testing
Pathology Tests Explained has more information about folate testing.
About blood testing
Visit healthdirect‘s ‘Guide to blood testing’ to learn more about blood tests in general with information about:
- what to consider before having a blood test
- what happens during a blood test
- the accuracy of your results
- the cost of your blood tests
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Last reviewed: December 2022