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Fighting Birth Defects with Folic Acid

January 13, 2012

Did you know there are things you can do even before you become pregnant that can help give your child a healthy start in life? Making sure your body has enough folic acid is one of the most important ways to protect your baby from birth defects.

Folic acid is a B vitamin and an essential nutrient that helps prevent certain birth defects known as neural tube defects. Neural tube defects include:

Spina bifida- a condition characterized by the incomplete closure of the spinal    column, leaving an exposed and unprotected spinal cord. This may cause severe    and lifelong disabilities and may require multiple surgeries.

Anencephaly- when most or all of the brain does not develop. Babies with this health condition often dies before or shortly after birth.

Approximately 2,500 children in the United States are born each year with a neural tube defect. It is estimated thatmore than half of these cases could be prevented with adequate folic acid intake.

Since the brain and spinal cord begin developing very soon after conception, the critical period when adequate folic acid is necessary often occurs before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Because of this, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the US Public Health Service recommend that all women of childbearing age consume 400 mcg of folic acid every day, even if they are not actively trying to become pregnant.

Folic acid can be found in many foods such as: green, leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, beans, breads, breakfast cereals, rice and pasta. However, for most people it is difficult to obtain the recommended amount of folic acid in their diet alone. The AAP recommends that all women of childbearing age take a daily multivitamin to ensure they are receiving adequate amounts of this necessary nutrient.

Even if you’re not planning to welcome your little bundle of joy anytime soon, consider taking a multivitamin. It’s an easy way to make sure your little one gets off to a healthy start.

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