Folic acid is a must to help prevent birth defects

Women of childbearing age should get 400 mcg of folic acid each day to prevent birth defects.

Are you pregnant or thinking of getting pregnant? Would you like to reduce your baby’s risk of developing birth defects of the brain and spinal cord by up to 70 percent? There is one easy thing you can do to reduce this risk- get enough folic acid in your diet.

The National Council on Folic Acid wants women to be aware of the importance of receiving enough folic acid in their diet. Folic acid, or folate as it is also called, is one of the B vitamins, which helps your body grow new cells. Everybody needs folic acid for growing new cells like hair, skin or nails. It is most important for women of childbearing age because it can help prevent some major birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, also known as neural tube defects. Women who get the recommended amount of folic acid can reduce the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, by 50 to 70 percent.

How much is enough folic acid? Women of childbearing age should get 400 micrograms (mcg) and pregnant women should get 600 mcg of folic acid every day, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. There are several foods that have high amounts of folate in them naturally, like dark green leafy vegetables, dried beans and peas, and citrus fruits and juices. Many cereals are fortified with folic acid as well. Some even supply up to 100% of the daily value. Since many women may not get the recommended amount of folic acid from foods alone, most multivitamins and prenatal vitamins have 100% of the daily value of folic acid. It is important for all women of childbearing age to get the recommended amount of folic acid daily, since there is rapid growth of baby’s brain and spinal cord early in pregnancy when a woman may not know she is pregnant yet or may not have been planning to get pregnant.

You can find more information on the importance of folic acid from the National Council on Folic Acid or from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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