Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Folic Acid: A Key to Healthy Babies

I read the following post the other day and just had to pass it on. I am a firm believer in the importance of folic acid for a developing fetus. I have a seizure disorder, so I'm on meds that cause nueral tube defects (spina bifida, etc), and I take 5x the normal dose everyday just to combat the possible defects to my babies. And I will continue to take 5x the normal dose throughout my child bearing years.

Thanks to folic acid and a prenatal vitamin my Little Miss is perfectly healthy. She was born with a dimple at the top of her bum, almost went to the bone. The doc even ordered an MRI in the first 24 hours of her life to make sure it wasn't anything bad. Luckily it wasn't. And with baby #2 - everything is looking good so far. So...moral of the story - meds, or not, take your folic acid ladies! Not convinced? Read on....

When I saw this headline on the cover of yesterday's paper, I was a little surprised, I mean research proved this in the 1980's. The problem is that health care officials and educators assume that people know this and they stop harping on the matter, but every year a new group of women enter their child bearing years and need to hear this information.

And even though I have gotten on this soapbox before, I am going to share a few important facts about folic acid and urge moms everywhere to share this with their friends and with their daughters.
  • Folic acid occurs naturally in foods like fruits and vegetables, but our bodies absorb it best in it's synthetic form. To get your daily RDA of folic acid from your diet you would have to eat 200 red apples.
  • Insufficient folic acid can lead to birth defects (or defects that result in miscarriage) including defects of the brain, skull, spine, heart, arms, legs, face, hard palate (cleft lip and/or palate) and urinary tract. A mother can reduce the risk of her child having these defects by 50-70% by taking 400 micrograms of folic acid a day.
  • The most crucial time for you to be getting folic acid is in the first 28 days of pregnancy. Most women don't even know that they're pregnant in the first 28 days.
  • Hence why, EVERY woman in her child bearing years should take a folic acid supplement.
  • Folic acid is used to create and repair DNA (necessary for cell production), which is why it is so vital during early pregnancy. The first 28 days are when your little bundle of joy goes from 2 microscopic cells to a something with a heart beat. Isn't that just phenomenal to think about?
  • Folic acid is crucial not just for the growing baby, but mom too. During pregnancy folic acid demands increase because it is needed to produce the new cells that are making up the increased blood volume, and general increased everything that comes with pregnancy.
  • According to a March of Dimes survey in 2009, only 11% of women took folic acid before pregnancy.
  • Apparently there is a myth going around that multi-vitamins will make you fat. This is false. However, if your multi-vitamin has iron in it and you're not drinking enough water, it can make you constipated which can lead to bloating and discomfort. Stay well hydrated and you should be fine.
  • Since 1998 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandated that folic acid be added to white flour, bread and pasta, which has resulted in about 1000 fewer children born with neural tube defects each year.
  • Many Hispanic women have genetic deficiency that interferes with the metabolism of folic acid. Which means that they should be taking even more folic acid.
  • The average life-time cost of spina bifida per person in the United States is $532,000.
  • Currently the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the March of Dimes, and the Spina Bifida Association along with corn and flour tortilla manufacturers are working with the FDA to supplement corn tortillas, a staple for many Hispanic diets. It is estimated to cost $3 million per year, but will save $145 million in direct medical costs for defects.

Heather is a full-time mom and Pediatric Registered Nurse. She writes about things that make her a better wife and mother, or give her more time and money to spend on her family.

Hopefully these things will help you out too! Find more of her posts at Secrets of a Mom.


  1. My dad always told us to start taking a prenatal vitamin before we even THOUGHT about trying to get pregnant for these very reasons!

  2. Thanks for sharing this. And your pictures are better than mine!

  3. yikes. jacjac being a surprise and all... i know it says even before you think you'll get pregnant.. but i was taking a regular multivitamin beforehand.. hopefully he won't turn out stupid or something. :)

  4. I have been so bad with this pregnancy! I can't even remember how well I was taking them before my positive. Well, I hope this baby turns out okay. :(


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