The benefits of folic acid before pregnancy.
Folic acid can prevent some birth defects, but women should consider taking the vitamin before they get pregnant rather than waiting until they already are expecting. 'There's strong evidence that taking the supplement before and during pregnancy reduces the incidence of neural tube defects," says gynecologist Ellen Wilson. "It may also prevent cleft lip/palate and heart abnormalities."
Each year about 3,000 babies in the U.S. are born with neural tube defects such as spina bifida, which is caused by the incomplete closing of the spine and skull. These birth defects typically occur in the first few weeks of pregnancy before a woman is aware she is expecting. Since half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, it is important for women of child-bearing age to get enough folic acid.
Since 1998, when grain products first were fortified with folic acid, there has been a decline in neural tube defects. Although folic acid also is found in breads, pasta, and green leafy vegetables, many adult females do not consume enough and may need to take a supplement. Most over-the-counter prenatal vitamins have approximately 800 meg (one meg is 1/1,000th of a milligram), but higher doses may be obtained by prescription.
"Women planning for pregnancy should take at least 400 meg daily if they are low risk and 4,000 meg daily if they have had a child with a neural tube defect or if they take medication for epilepsy," Wilson advises.
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|Publication:||USA Today (Magazine)|
|Article Type:||Brief article|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2014|
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