Folic Acid and Pregnancy - What Every Woman Should Know
Before Becoming Pregnant by Chima Njoku
NTDs are birth defects of the brain and spine, and it occurs in two forms namely
spina bifida and anencephaly. Spina bifida refers to a condition in which a baby's spinal
cord is partially exposed due to incomplete closing of the spinal column. Anencephaly,
on the other hand, is caused by incomplete closing of the skull, thus leaving part of
the brain exposed. In United States, 2,500 to 3,000 babies are born with NTDs each
year, and an estimated 1,500 pregnancies are terminated because of these defects.
All infants with anencephaly die before or shortly after birth, whereas most babies
born with spina bifida grow to adulthood with varying degrees of paralysis and
disability. The annual medical and surgical costs for persons with spina bifida in the
United States exceed $200 million. Even worse, caring for these individuals for the
rest of their lives often places families under enormous financial and emotional stress.
To help women protect their babies, the U. S. Public Health Service (USPHS)
published a recommendation in 1992 requiring all women of childbearing age to
consume 0.4 mg (or 400 micrograms) of folic acid EVERYDAY, even when they are
not planning to become pregnant. Additionally, in 1998, the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) implemented the Fortification Program, which requires all
enriched grain products to be fortified with folic acid. The purpose of these measures
is to prevent folic acid deficiency, and maximize the benefits of folic acid for all
women. For example, the results of studies done before and after these measures
were put in place show that the incidence of NTDs has decreased by 30 - 59%.
If a woman is not planning to become pregnant, why does she need to get at least
400 micrograms of folic acid each day? The reason is simple: NTDs occur as early in
a pregnancy as 3 - 4 weeks after conception, a period when most women do not
know that they are pregnant. Furthermore, about half of all pregnancies in U.S. are
not planned. So, if a woman waits until she confirms her pregnancy before increasing
her folic acid intake, it may be too late for her baby.
A woman can get enough folic acid by eating foods rich in folic acid. But, how can she
be certain that she is getting the right amount of folic acid each day? The simple
answer is that she can't be sure of the amount of folic acid she is getting from food
each day. Rather than taking a chance, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) came
up with a solution. The CDC made a recommendation that women should take a
supplement that provides 400 micrograms of folic acid per serving per day, in
addition to the amount they get from food. This way, women can be absolutely sure
that they are getting at least the minimum amount of folic acid they need each day.
There is no harm in getting extra folic acid from food because dietary folic acid is
Before you buy folic acid supplement though, take a minute to read the "supplement
facts" label on the supplement bottle. First, locate folic acid on the label and then
read across. If it is the right one, you will see 400 mcg under "amount per serving"
and 100% under "%DV".
A woman's preparation for pregnancy should include taking a folic acid supplement or
multivitamins that provides 400 micrograms of folic acid per serving per day. This
intake level will help protect her fetus against Neural tube defects (or NTDs). NTDs
can be fatal. A baby born with the nonfatal form will grow up with serious disabilities
and unlikely to lead a normal life.
About The Author
Chima Njoku is a biochemist, freelance medical writer, and publisher of free
consumer friendly information on vitamins and minerals. Learn more about folic acid
and neural tube defects at [http://www.healthsolutionsontheweb.com/FolicAcid.html]
Ideally, preparing for pregnancy
requires a woman to make nutritional
and lifestyle changes. Often, such
preparation is necessary to protect
her health and the health of her fetus
throughout the pregnancy. Part of
this preparation is making sure that
she gets enough folic acid before she
becomes pregnant. Why? Well,
scientists recently found that, if a
woman gets enough folic acid before
and during pregnancy, her baby is
unlikely to be born with a form of
birth defect known as Neural Tube
Defects (or NTDs).
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