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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