PA Health Department Reminds Women That Folic Acid Prevents Birth
PA, 14 January 2003
observance of National Birth Defects Prevention Month, Physician
General Dr. Rob Muscalus today reminded all women of child-bearing
age of the importance of folic acid and its role in preventing neural
tube birth defects (NTDs), which are defects of the brain and spinal
400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day before becoming pregnant
and in the early weeks of pregnancy can reduce a woman's risk of
having a pregnancy affected by neural tube birth defects such as
spina bifida, the leading cause of childhood paralysis, by as much
as 70 percent," Dr. Muscalus said.
acid is a B vitamin that is necessary for proper cell growth and
development of the embryo. Although it is not exactly known how
folic acid works to prevent NTDs, its role in tissue formation is
essential. Folic acid is required for the production of DNA, which
is necessary for the rapid cell growth needed to make fetal tissues
and organs early in pregnancy.
most common type of NTDs are:
skull and brain do not form properly. Infants cannot survive
with this birth defect.
BifidaThe spinal cord, bony spiny column and soft
tissue layer over the spine do not form properly.
skull does not form properly, allowing part of the brain to
be contained within a sac outside the skull.
occur approximately three to four weeks after conception, before
most women even realize that they are pregnant. Regardless of pregnancy
intention, about half of pregnancies are unplanned, which is why
it is important for a woman to have enough folic acid in her body
both before and during pregnancy.
can be difficult to consume enough folic acid from food sources
alone. Taking folic acid pills or multivitamins and eating foods
rich in folic acid will ensure women receive the proper recommendation.
women who are capable of becoming pregnant should take 400 mcg of
folic acid every day, as well as consume foods rich in folic acid,
such as green, leafy vegetables, pasta, bread, orange juice and
fortified breakfast cereals.
percent of NTDs occur in women with no personal or family history
of NTDs. As a result, it is extremely difficult to predict which
women will have a pregnancy affected by NTDs. Known risk factors
include having a previous NTD-affected pregnancy, a diagnosis of
maternal insulin-dependent diabetes, use of some seizure medications,
medically diagnosed obesity and high temperatures in early pregnancy.
year, approximately 150,000 infants nationwide are born with a birth
defect. Birth defects are also the leading cause of infant mortality
in the US.
Department of Health.