Why Is Folic Acid Important?

Birth defects are more common than many people realize. According to the National Birth Defects Prevention Network, birth defects affect 1 out of every 33 babies, and cause 20% of infant deaths. While many factors can contribute to birth defects, the exact cause of most birth defects is unknown. However, research shows that folic acid can help prevent certain types of birth defects.

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. Learn more about folic acid and how it can help prevent birth defects.

What is folic acid?

Folic acid is a B vitamin that our body uses to make new cells. It can help prevent birth defects of a baby’s brain and spine.

Why is folic acid important?

Birth defects can result in a lifetime of health complications or infant death.  Taking folic acid before and during pregnancy has been shown to significantly decrease a baby’s risk for the neural tube defects spina bifida and anencephaly. The number of babies born with neural tube defects has decreased significantly since folic acid fortification.

Does everyone need folic acid?

Everyone needs folic acid, but it’s especially important for pregnant women. It’s not just pregnant women who should take folic acid, though.

Spina bifida and anenephaly develop within the first few weeks of pregnancy. This means that it’s important to have folic acid in your system before pregnancy. More than half of all pregnancies in the United State are unplanned.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that women between the ages of 15 and 45 consume 400 micrograms of folic acid each day.

While it’s possible to get 400 mcg of folic acid through diet, many women find it easier to get the recommended amount through supplements like a multivitamin. Talk to your doctor to see which option is right for you. Schedule an appointment with your primary care provider, or meet with a MANA physician today!