Home > Magazine > Cover Story > VITAMIN PREVENTS BIRTH DEFECTS



June 2003

Folic Acid is vitamin B which may help reduce the risk of having a baby with certain birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. The neural tube is the future spinal cord and brain. For a brief period of time neural tube is open and later closes at the 25th day after conception, that is five and half weeks after your last menstrual period for the upper end of the neural tube. The lower end of the neural tube closes the 27th day, about the 6th week after your last menstrual period. Prior to that, many women realize they are pregnant. It is most important to have enough Folic Acid in your system right before and early in pregnancy. How much to take?? The U.S. Public Health Services recommend the dose of Folic Acid be 400 micrograms daily, never more than 1000 micrograms. In the USA an estimated 2500 infants are born with neural tube defects 5% of the defects can be prevented if women of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms of Folic Acid daily during the pre and periconceptional period.

We recommend to not wait for your first prenatal care visit, start taking the over-the counter vitamin if you think you could become pregnant. For example, whenever you stop taking your birth control pills or any other method of birth control, because over half of the pregnancies are unplanned and because these defects occur in the developing fetus before most women know they are pregnant. It is important that all women of childbearing age consume the needed 400 micrograms of Folic Acid per day. Babies born with spina bifida usually survive often serious disability. Folic Acid is found naturally in orange juice, green leafy vegetables and beans. However, it is difficult to obtain the recommended 400 micrograms/day from diet alone

Annual medical and surgical costs in the USA for all persons with spina bifida exceed $200 million dollars. For each person with typical severe spina bifida the estimated lifetime direct and indirect cost is $250,000.00. Think ahead for a healthy baby, start taking your vitamin if you are planning to get pregnant.

For additional information you can contact March Of Dimes at 1-800 367-6630.

This article contributed by Tayaba Fatema, M.D. Dr Fatema is a Board Certified Pediatrician, currently practicing general pediatrics with special interest in childhood diseases, well child care, immunizations, school and sports physicals. She can be reached at 770 717-0033.

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