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 blood test

4-minute read

Key facts

  • 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:

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

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2022

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Vitamin B12 and folate - Pathology Tests Explained

Why and when to get tested for vitamin B12 and folate

Read more on Pathology Tests Explained website

Folate and pregnancy

Folate and folic acid are important for pregnancy since they can help prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Folate and pregnancy

Taking the vitamin folate before and during pregnancy reduces the risk of your baby having a neural tube defect

Read more on WA Health website

Folate | Jean Hailes

Folate is a B vitamin needed for healthy growing, in particular for the nervous system. Folate helps: form red blood cells which carry oxygen around the…

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Vitamins B6, B9 (Folate), B12 - BluePages

Find out if Vitamins B6, B9 (Folate), B12 are likely to help.

Read more on e-hub Web Services - Australian National University (ANU) website

Department of Health and Aged Care | Folate

Health and Aged Care has a new website! We are sending you to our new site

Read more on Department of Health and Aged Care website

RACGP - MTHFR gene testing

MTHFR genes are involved in how your body uses folate. There are variations in this gene that can be identified in a blood test.

Read more on RACGP - The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners website

Folic acid & iodine fortification, Summary - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

Mandatory folic acid and iodine fortification of bread resulted in increased levels of folic acid and iodine in the food supply, increased folic acid and iodine intakes, a decreased rate of neural...

Read more on AIHW – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website

Why do you need to take folic acid when pregnant? | Queensland Health

Learn about why folic acid is important in pregnancy.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Vitamins and supplements during pregnancy

Supplements such as folic acid and iodine are recommended during pregnancy. But check with your doctor before taking any other types.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice 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 and advice

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 Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.