Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Folate test

2-minute read

Folate is an important nutrient for making normal red blood cells and for repairing cells and nerve tissue in the body. Along with vitamin B12, it is tested to check whether you have enough of these vitamins in your blood.

What is being tested?

Folate is a nutrient that is very similar to folic acid, which is also known as vitamin B9.

Folate is usually found in food like green vegetables, fruit, dry beans and peas and many breakfast cereals. Because it is so important in normal growth, especially in developing babies, folic acid is added to bread, flour and cereals.

This test examines your levels of folate in the blood (serum folate) or in the red blood cells (RBC folate).

Why would I need this test?

There are many reasons you might need a folate test:

  • Low levels of folate can cause red blood cells to develop abnormally or not produce enough (anaemia).
  • The test can be used to investigate why you have nerve damage.
  • Some conditions (such as Crohn’s disease or cystic fibrosis) prevent the body from absorbing folate into your body.
  • Some people who are confused and disorientated have a folate deficiency.
  • Folate is vital for a baby’s normal brain and spinal cord development, so many women are checked for folate deficiency before falling pregnant.

You doctor might be monitoring treatment for low folate or low vitamin B12.

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 eating enough folate-containing foods.
  • Your body might not be absorbing folate from food.
  • Your body might be losing folate due to taking medication, or a liver or kidney condition.
  • You might need more folate than usual, such as if you’re pregnant.

You should discuss the results with your doctor to see what they mean in your particular situation.

More information

About folate testing

Lab Tests Online 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
  • results accuracy
  • blood tests cost

Last reviewed: August 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Vitamin B12 and folate - Lab Tests Online AU

Why and when to get tested for vitamin B12 and folate

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Vitamin B12 and folate deficiency - Lab Tests Online AU

Site map of article content

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Anaemia in pregnancy

During pregnancy, some women become anaemic, which means they have too few red blood cells in their body. This is possible to protect against and possible to treat.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo