Among all the (sometimes scary) new scientific pregnancy findings we sort through every day, there's a new one to report that's nothing but good news.
According to new data published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fortifying grain foods with the B vitamin folic acid has saved about 1,300 babies from being born with neutral tube defects—or serious problems in the brain and spine—each year since that program went into effect in 1998. Thanks to fortifying, the number of babies born in in this country with such issues has plunged 35 percent since that watershed year.
That said, about 3,000 pregnancies in the U.S. annually are still affected by neural tube defects. So want to make sure you're getting enough of that folic acid good stuff? Here's what to do, according to the March of Dimes' recommendations:
- Take a multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid every single day. That goes for all women who are capable of having a baby. (Currently only about a third of all women are doing this as recommended.)
- Once you're pregnant, take a prenatal vitamin that contains at least 600 micrograms of folic acid.
- Eat as many foods as possible that contain folate, which is the naturally occurring form of folic acid. Such foods include leafy green veggies, black beans, OJ, and lentils. Enriched cereals, breads, and pastas also contain the nutrient.
- If you have had a previous pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect, talk to your healthcare provider about starting a regimen of high-dose folic acid at least a month before you conceive, and all the way through your first trimester, per the C.D.C. guidelines.
Another heads up for Hispanic women in particular: The new research shows that this group is about 20 percent more likely to have a child with such a defect than causasian women, and the reason for that is likely dietary: Wheat flour is fortified with folic acid, but corn masa flour isn't (although the March of Dimes and other groups are working to make the F.D.A. fortify that, too.)
Just one more (encouraging) reminder to take those prenatal vitamins and eat a healthy diet during pregnancy!
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