January 6 through 12th is National Folic Acid Awareness Week. Adequate folic acid intake is important for the prevention of birth defects.
Messages that NCFA wants all women of childbearing age to know:
- Folic acid is a vitamin that can help prevent birth defects. Women of childbearing age need an extra 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid each day. Check out CDC’s http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/folicacid/index.html
- Women can get the recommended 400 mcg of folic acid by taking a daily multivitamin or by eating fortified foods. Check the label of your favorite cereal to see if it has 100% DV (daily value) of folic acid. See http://www.cdc.gov/Features/FolicAcid/
- Important growth of the baby happens very early in pregnancy, before most women know that they are pregnant. Folic acid can prevent birth defects of the baby’s brain or spine if a woman takes it before and during pregnancy. See http://womenshealth.about.com/cs/pregnancy/a/folicacidearlyp.htm
- If you are pregnant, remember to take a prenatal vitamin with iron and folic acid every day. Visit www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/folic-acid.cfm
- More than half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Talk to your health care provider about a reproductive life plan. Check out the website http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/getready.html
- If you are planning a pregnancy or are pregnant, do NOT drink alcohol. No amount of alcohol is safe for the unborn baby. See www.notasingledrop.org for more N.O.FAS http://www.nofas.org/family/pregnant.aspx or information and resources from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) like “Effects of Alcohol on a Fetus” at http://fascenter.samhsa.gov/documents/WYNK_Effects_Fetus.pdf .
- Talk with your doctor or midwife about newborn screening before your baby is born. See the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) webpage NBS at http://www.babysfirsttest.org/ from HRSA
- Every woman should talk to their doctor about their and their partner’s family health history. Sharing your Family Health History can help your doctor identify diseases for which you may be at increased risk. See the CDC information at http://www.cdc.gov/genomics/famhistory/
- Sharing your Family Health History can help your doctor identify changes you can make to reduce your risk and your children’s risk of developing disease. See http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/familyhistory.html for additional information.
Although all enriched cereals and grain products in the U.S. are fortified with the B-vitamin folic acid, only one-third of U.S. women of childbearing age consume the recommended amount from their diet. Taking a multivitamin with folic acid every day is a key way that women can get the recommended amount of 400 mcg.
Be prepared before pregnancy
Women need folic acid, even if not planning to become pregnant, since 50% of all pregnancies are unplanned. Taking folic acid before pregnancy reduces the risk of birth defects of the brain and spine, called neural tube defects (NTDs), by up to 70%.
Message to the Hispanic community
Hispanic babies are 1.5 to 2 times more likely than others in the U.S. to be born with an NTD. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that Latinas in the U.S. consume the least amount of folic acid and have the least knowledge about folic acid among racial or ethnic groups.
National Council on Folic Acid Mission Statement
The mission of the National Council on Folic Acid (NCFA) is to improve health by promoting the benefits and consumption of folic acid.