Posts Tagged ‘ Spina Bifida ’

UK is Adding WHAT to Food to Prevent Birth Defects?

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

If you’ve been preparing to get pregnant or are pregnant, chances are you have been beat over the head by doctors, books, and even this blog with the importance of folic acid to your baby’s development. And with good reason! Taking folic acid, a B9 vitamin, can prevent spina bifida and other birth defects affecting the brain, spine or spinal cord. Even though it is so important, a new study out of England that looked at 500,000 women, showed that only about one-third of women who had babies actually took folic acid supplements before getting pregnant. So in an effort to prevent babies from developing these sorts of birth defects, England’s government is close to making it mandatory for all food manufacturers to add folic acid to white bread. This effort could prevent an estimated 300 babies per year from developing spina bifida and other birth defects.

While saving babies of course sounds like a good thing, there’s still debate about fortifying flour with folic acid because it could lead to what some are calling “mass medicating,” and there is evidence that even though adding folic acid would be helping pregnant women and their babies, it could be harmful to others. It may mask a vitamin B12 deficiency in the elderly, which can seriously damage the nervous system, and it may be linked to bowel cancer.

Though it is not yet a done deal, health minister Earl Howe has hinted that the government will be making flour fortification mandatory. On average in England and Wales there are 13 pregnancies terminated every week due to neural tube defects and three live births with spina bifida and other conditions, two thirds of which tragedies could be avoided by fortification, which the US has been doing since 1998 (who knew?).

TELL US: Do you think the UK’s government should step in and add folic acid to bread to prevent birth defects even if it puts other people’s health at risk?


Life with Spina Bifida
Life with Spina Bifida
Life with Spina Bifida

Image of bread, wheat and flour courtesy of Shutterstock.

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If You’re Not Already, Take Folic Acid Now!

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Ever since you decided you were ready to get pregnant, I’m sure your OBGYN has drilled it into your head: Must take folic acid! Must take folic acid! After all, there is major evidence that spina bifida and other birth defects affecting the brain, spine or spinal cord can be prevented with a boost of B9 before pregnancy. However, a new study out of England that looked at 500,000 women, shows that only about one-third of women who had babies actually took folic acid supplements before getting pregnant.

According to The Guardian, “even among women with previous experience of a pregnancy involving a neural tube birth defect, such as spina bifida, only just over half (51%) took the supplements.

Spina bifida is a neural tube defect that occurs when the developing spinal column does not close properly, leaving nerves exposed. In most cases surgery can be carried out to repair the defect after birth, but often nerves have already been damaged leading to paralysis, incontinence and loss of skin sensation.

Among the known risk factors for spina bifida, the most important is a lack of folic acid before and at the very start of pregnancy.”

The research—published in an online journal of the Public Library of Science, was conducted by a team from Queen Mary’s Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine between 1999 and 2012—showed that more women took folic acid once they discovered they were pregnant, climbing to between 45% and 62% between the periods looked at in the study. But experts stress that to offer effective protection the supplements needed to be taken before pregnancy.

Helping to prevent your future child from having a birth defect just by taking a supplement or eating more foods high in B9 (like wheat bread, lentils, black eyed peas, raw spinach, broccoli, avocado, cooked asparagus, mangos and oranges)? Seems like a no brainer. Know someone who is thinking about getting pregnant? Pass this information on. It could be a lifesaver.

TELL US: Did you take folic acid before trying to get pregnant? Did your OB advise you to?

Image of pregnant woman with supplements courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Pregnancy Myths: What Should You Believe?
Pregnancy Myths: What Should You Believe?
Pregnancy Myths: What Should You Believe?

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Pregnancy Safety Tips: Beach Edition

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Beach Safety Tips for Pregnant WomenIt’s summertime, and the beach seems to have a magnetic pull. The sun’s warmth! Fresh air! Sand between your toes! Cool ocean water on a super-hot day! The relaxing sound of the waves! And an excuse to lounge around with nothing to do but read a (trashy) novel!

But now that you’re pregnant SPF isn’t the only thing you need to worry about (though you should be wearing at least SPF 30 at all times, because pregnant women actually burn easier)! While there is no proof that UV rays can be soaked into your skin and somehow harm your baby, UV can break down folic acid, which is imperative while pregnant.

Folic acid—which is a B vitamin found in foods like leafy greens, oranges and black beans—helps prevent birth defects of the spinal cord (like spina bifida) and brain (anencephaly), as well as cleft lips and palates and certain types of heart defects. Your body also needs folic acid to make normal blood cells and to prevent anemia, and it is essential to DNA production, repair and functionality. It is extremely vital in supporting the rapid growth of the placenta and fetus as well.

One study found that women with folic acid deficiencies were two to three times more likely to have a premature baby or a baby of low birth weight than those who got enough of the vitamin. So if you are going to be tanning, it’s especially important to make sure you are keeping up with your daily prenatal supplement. According to the March of Dimes, pregnant women should be getting 600 micrograms of folic acid per day either in their diets alone or in a mixture of diet and a prenatal multivitamin.

Also note that increased melanin production mixed with sun exposure can lead to the “mask of pregnancy” (that weird raccoon mask-effect around your eyes that looks like you were wearing sunglasses while tanning), so make sure your time in the sun is limited and that you don’t ever head out without sunblock.

I’m sure you’ve already realized that pregnant women tend to get hot very easily, so be careful of overheating and dehydration—both are very dangerous for your unborn babe. Pay attention to heat advisories in your area (New York City has recently hit 100°!), and if the heat index is in the 90s, stay indoors as much as possible with the A/C blowing, and cool down with a damp washcloth applied to the back of your neck or forehead.

Drink plenty of liquids—eight ounces for each hour you’re outside. Water is great, but you can also down OJ, milk or sports drinks that replace electrolytes you’ve lost while sweating. And if you’re sitting on the beach, make sure to take long shade breaks every 20 minutes or so, and bring a mist bottle to keep your skin as moist and cool as possible. If you do become dehydrated, you’re actually limiting oxygen and nutrients from getting to your baby, which could put his/her development in jeopardy. So drink up!

Whether at the beach or pool, take frequent dips into the water. It not only cools you off, but it helps take some of your extra weight off of your sciatic nerve, which can get overtaxed and cause pelvis, leg, and foot pain.

While bumming around at the beach—showing off your cute bump!—can still be a blast, you’re taking care of two already, so keep your little bundle’s needs in mind too before hitting the sand and surf. Happy summer!

TELL US: What baby-safe precautions do you take when going to the beach?

Image of pregnant woman at the beach courtesy of Shutterstock.

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