Scientific research has shown that if women take 0.4mg of folic acid 3-4 months prior to and during pregnancy, the risk of neural tube defects such as Spina Bifida is reduced by up to 75%.
In Canada, 1 in 1300 babies born have the disabling birth defect Spina Bifida. Health Canada recommends that ALL women of child bearing age should consume folic acid every day in order to help prevent neural tube defects.
Pregnancy is often looked upon with great expectations. Preparing for pregnancy can be very exciting, yet up to 50% of pregnancies are unplanned. Folic acid can help women prepare for a healthy baby.
Folic acid, folate, and folacin all refer to the B vitamin required for a healthy body. Folic acid is helpful in the development of the spinal canal and the brain during the first four weeks of pregnancy.
Folic acid is naturally found in green leafy vegetables, dark yellow fruits, and grain products such as whole wheat. In Canada, white flour and pasta products that are labeled "enriched" are now being fortified with folic acid, yet many Canadian women are not meeting their daily folic acid requirements.
Folic acid is lost during storage, preparation and cooking. to ensure you are receiving an optimum amount of folic acid in your diet:
- Serve vegetables and fruit raw
- Cook vegetables in as little water as possible
- Store vegetables in the refrigerator
- Ripen fruit in loosely closed paper bags at room temperature, then refrigerate
- When stir frying, use the highest heat so vegetables start to cook at once
Health care professionals and your local Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association can provide you with more information.
Please consult your physician to determine what is the right amount of folic acid for you.
A woman is at a high risk of having a baby with neural tube defects such as Spina Bifida if:
- She has had a previous pregnancy where the baby has had a neural tube defect
- She (or her partner) has a family history of Spina Bifida
- She has a pre-existing medical condition known to increase the risk, such as diabetes, or is taking an anticonvulsant
Women at high risk should consume 10 times the recommended dose (that is, 4.0mg) of folic acid once a day. This does requires a prescription from a physician.
ALL women of child bearing years should consume good sources of folic acid AND take a multivitamin containing a minimum of 0.4mg (400mcg) of folic acid every day.
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