By Carolina Boyd
The New Year is starting off with a reminder for women to take their folic acid. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the March of Dimes have partnered together for National Folic Acid Awareness Week (Jan. 5-11, 2020).
Folic acid is a B-vitamin that is necessary for proper cell growth. Our bodies use it to make new cells. If taken before and during early pregnancy, folic acid can prevent up to 70% of serious birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, known as neural tube defects. The most common of which are Spina Bifida and Anencephaly. Folic acid can also help decrease the risk for congenital heart defects, cleft palate and cleft lip.
Birth defects occur during the first 3-4 weeks of pregnancy. Since more than half of all pregnancies in the US are not planned, women need folic acid even before they conceive. However, it’s estimated that only one-third of women of childbearing age in the United States get the daily recommended amounts of folic acid.
The CDC and the U.S. Public Health Service recommend that females between the ages of 15 and 45 consume 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. This can be achieved by taking a daily multi-vitamin containing folic acid, as well as eating fortified foods like grains, pastas, or breakfast cereals. Foods containing folate, the natural form of folic acid, are also a good way to get more of the vitamin into the diet. Those foods include leafy green vegetables, lentils, black beans and orange juice.
If you are thinking about becoming pregnant and have questions about getting more folic acid into your diet, call 832-548-5000 to schedule an appointment with your Legacy OB/GYN provider to open up the conversation about preventing birth defects.