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Folic Acid Important For All Women

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RALEIGH — Only about one-third of women who could get pregnant get enough of a vitamin that protects against serious birth defects.

Folic acid

plays a crucial role in development during the first few weeks of pregnancy.

Even if you are not planning on getting pregnant you still need it.

For three years, grain products like bread, cereal and pasta have been fortified with folic acid in hopes of preventing neural tube defects, including

spina bifida


A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows it appears to be working.

Since the campaign began, the number of neural tube defects has dropped by 19 percent. That means 800 fewer babies born each year with birth defects.

However, fortified foods are not enough. Most women still get about half of the folic acid they need. That is why doctors recommend women take supplements long before they get pregnant.

"Don't think of your pregnancy as starting when you have your positive home pregnancy test. Think about pregnancy starting three months before you're starting to get pregnant," says Dr. Robert Littleton, an obstetrician.

Angie Wilson is expecting her second child in January. For her, a folic acid supplement is just part of her daily routine.

"That just ensures that the baby is getting everything he or she needs to get a good start in life," she says.

Even if you are not planning on getting pregnant, folic acid is important -- especially if you are taking birth control pills. That is because the pill affects the body's ability to absorb folic acid.

"For those women who are taking birth control pills, they need to really zero in on this and make sure they're taking enough folic acid," says Littleton.

If you are looking for a certain amount of folic acid, read the labels on supplement bottles. The daily recommended dose is 400 micrograms a day.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that all women between the ages of 13 and 50 take a daily multi-vitamin with folic acid. Folic acid can also be found in green, leafy vegetables and orange juice.


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