WHITE PLAINS, NY, Jan. 6, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Taking a daily
multivitamin containing the B vitamin folic acid is one of the best ways to
prevent birth defects and an important step toward having a healthy baby, yet
only about one-third of women know about it.
January 5 - 11 is national Folic Acid Awareness Week, a time when the March of
Dimes reminds all women of childbearing age about the important role folic acid
plays in preventing serious birth defects of the brain and spine, known as
neural tube defects (NTDs). Daily consumption of folic acid beginning before and
continuing through the early months of pregnancy is crucial because NTDs occur
in the first few weeks following conception, often before a woman knows she is
"All women of reproductive age should be taking a multivitamin containing folic
acid every day," advises Dr. Siobhan M. Dolan, M.D., MPH, coauthor of the first
March of Dimes book Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby: The Ultimate Pregnancy Guide.
"It's such an easy thing to do, and it can provide a major benefit to your
future family. About half of pregnancies are unplanned, so take your folic acid
daily and be sure to give your baby the healthiest start in life."
Dr. Dolan's book advises taking 400 micrograms of folic acid before conceiving
and up to 600 to 800 micrograms after. March of Dimes has worked to spread the
word about the importance of folic acid for women of childbearing age, and
helped bring about folic acid fortification of the grain and cereal supply.
"Since folic acid was added to the grain food supply in 1998, our nation has
seen a 26 percent decrease in NTDs," Dr. Dolan notes.
March of Dimes and its partners are currently petitioning the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration to fortify corn masa flour with this important B vitamin because
NTDs are more prevalent in the Hispanic population than other racial or ethnic
groups. By targeting food made with corn masa for folic acid fortification, it
would be possible to lower the rate of NTDs among Hispanics. Studies have shown
that folic acid works if taken before conception and during early pregnancy.
Although folic acid fortification of enriched cereal grains such as bread and
pasta was mandated by the FDA in 1998, corn masa flour lacks federal regulatory
approval for the addition of folic acid. The rate of NTDs in the U.S. has
decreased since fortification; however, about 3,000 pregnancies in the U.S.
still are affected by NTDs annually and Hispanics have the highest rate when
compared to other racial or ethnic groups.
Hispanic women are about 20 percent more likely to have a child with an NTD than
non-Hispanic white women, according to the National Birth Defects Prevention
Network. Although the reasons for the disparity are not well understood,
Hispanic women have been found to have lower intake of folic acid overall,
compared to white women.
For more than 75 years, moms and babies have benefited from March of Dimes
research, education, vaccines, and breakthroughs. Find out how you can help
raise funds to prevent premature birth and birth defects by walking in March for
Babies at marchforbabies.org. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. The
2014 March for Babies is sponsored nationally by the March of Dimes number one
corporate supporter Kmart, Macy's, Famous Footwear, Cigna, Sanofi Pasteur,
Mission Pharmacal, and United Airlines.
SOURCE March of Dimes