Folic Acid Supplementation Prior To And During Pregnancy Can Help Prevent Birth DefectsheadingContent

Posted on January 19, 2017

man and woman holding paper dolls of a family connected togetherWhether planning to get pregnant or not, women of child bearing age, from teenager throughout adult life, should concentrate on finding ways to add folic acid to their diet. Women who can become pregnant should be taking a daily vitamin and eating foods abundant in folic acid each and every single day, even if they are not trying to conceive. The reason: neutral tube defects can occur in the first 28 days of pregnancy. Birth defects can happen sometimes even before a woman knows she is pregnant.

How can birth defects be prevented?

“There is only one behavior that has been shown to reduce birth defects. It is folic acid supplementation prior to and during pregnancy,” said Natalie Sohn, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist (OB-GYN) with Tenet Florida Physician Services (TFPS).

Consuming B vitamin rich folic acid before and during pregnancy is one proven step to prevent birth defects. Folic acid is instrumental in a baby’s brain and spine development in the first month of pregnancy. Only about half of all pregnancies are actually planned, so a diet rich in folic acid is extremely important in the early stages of child development.

Folic acid or folate is found in a variety of foods including leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits like orange juice, beans and lentils (legumes) and enriched grain products like bread, cereal, rice and pastas. Discover which foods you like high in folic acid and consume regularly. Because folic acid is used to produce extra blood a pregnant woman’s body needs at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day during child development.

What has folic acid been proven to prevent during the early stages of pregnancy?

“Folic acid has been shown to prevent spina bifida,” said Dr. Sohn.

Spina bifida, or open spine, is a neutral tube defect. This birth defect where the spine is exposed can affect the development of the spinal cord and spine formation during a baby’s development. This type of birth defect can also result in birth defects in the baby’s brain and meninges or tissues which surround the brain and spinal cord. Numerous health ailments have been associated with spina bifida.

What are the other ways women be proactive in preventing birth defects?

“Other ways to prevent birth defects include limiting exposure to teratogenic substances such as some medications, pesticides and radiation,” said Dr. Sohn.

Check with your physician or OB-GYN to develop a plan to add folic acid to your diet. Schedule an appointment with your OB-GYN for early pre-natal care.