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Birth Defect Prevention

Reduce the risk of having a baby with a birth defect:mom and baby
  1. Take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily
  2. Schedule a visit with your healthcare provider or a local clinic
  3. Reduce your risk of infection by staying up to date on vaccinations
  4. Take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally
  5. Avoid harmful substances including alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs

Folic Acid

Folic acid is a B vitamin that the body uses to make new cells.

Everyone should take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, but it is especially important for those of childbearing age.

  • When taken before and during pregnancy, folic acid has been proven to prevent serious birth defects called neural tube defects. These birth defects happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before someone knows they are pregnant. Since about half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, it is recommended that all females of childbearing age get enough fold acid, even if they are not trying to get pregnant.
  • Taking folic acid can keep the blood healthy by helping red blood cells form and grow. Not getting enough folic acid can lead to a type of anemia called folate deficiency anemia.

Neural tube birth defects

Neural tube defects are common, serious birth defects that occur early in pregnancy when the neural tube (part of the brain and spinal cord) doesn’t grow properly. Children born with neural tube defects usually need life-long medical treatment. Spina bifida and anencephaly are the most common neural tube defects. Children born with spina bifida may have difficulty walking, and experience bladder and bowel problems and/or other serious health complications. Anencephaly, a fatal neural tube defect, occurs when a baby is born with a severely underdeveloped brain and skull.

Sources of Folic Acid
  • Food: Folate is found naturally in some foods including spinach, nuts, and beans. Folic acid is found in fortified foods called "enriched foods" including some bread, pasta, and cereal. Look for the term "enriched" on the ingredients list to find out whether the food has added folic acid.
  • Vitamins: Most multivitamins sold in the United States contain 400 mcg, or 100% of the daily value, or folic acid.

The Folic Acid Awareness handout can be shared with patients, friends and family to help spread awareness of the importance of folic acid in reducing birth defects!

Additional Information about Birth Defect Prevention

The Whole Family Unit

The whole family unit is essential in providing support before, during and after pregnancy. Click here to learn more.