Sure, you know you need to take prenatal vitamins during pregnancy. But new research from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston reveals that taking folic acid (it's found in multivitamins and prenatal vitamins) for at least a year before conceiving may reduce the risk of preterm birth by 50 to 70 percent. About 13 percent of babies are born prematurely every year.
"Half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned," says Diane Ashton, MD, deputy medical director for the March of Dimes. "So it's important that all women of child-bearing age take folic acid supplements every day -- just to be safe -- even if they're not trying to get pregnant just yet." Folic acid also plays a big role in preventing birth defects of the brain and spinal cord early in the first trimester -- before many women even know they're pregnant.