Date Published: 12 January 2006

US National Birth Defects Prevention Month: Folic Acid Awareness Week

Health News from the United States of America (USA)

Health News from the USA

The Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Yale School of Medicine will recognize National Birth Defects Prevention Month and Folic Acid Awareness Week by heightening awareness of the importance of a folic acid-rich diet for women who are pregnant or trying to conceive.

Folic acid is a B-vitamin (vitamin B9) that is necessary for proper cell growth. Beginning in 1998, the Food and Drug Administration has required the addition of folic acid to enriched breads, cereals, flours, pastas, rice and other grain products. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since the introduction of fortification, rates of certain birth defects called neural tube defects (NTDs) have decreased by 26%.

Yale Ob/Gyn teamed with the National Council on Folic Acid (NCFA) last year to launch National Folic Acid Awareness Week. The focus of this year's Birth Defects Prevention Month is preconceptional health. The divisions of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Yale will focus their efforts on encouraging women of childbearing age to practice healthy preconceptional and prenatal behaviors, including taking multivitamins containing folic acid, managing chronic medical conditions, having regular medical examinations and avoiding alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs.

Emerging research shows that folic acid may reduce the risk of birth defects, such as cleft lip, cleft palate and heart defects. Yale Ob/Gyn clinicians stress that folic acid supplementation before and during very early pregnancy is of critical importance. Inadequate intake increases the risk of spina bifida compared to women taking 1 mg of folic acid daily.

" I tell my patients that there are three basic important things they can do to improve their baby's health: don't smoke, wear a seatbelt and take folic acid," said Joshua Copel, M.D., professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at Yale.

Source(s): Yale University, Connecticut (USA)

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