Women who may become pregnant – planned or unplanned – should take a daily folic acid supplement to prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, according to the U. S. Preventive Services Task Force.
Folic acid, a form of vitamin B-9, is important in the early days of the pregnancy. It reduces the risk for birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine known as neural tube defects.
Many foods, such as green and dark green vegetables and enriched grain products contain B-9 in the form of folic acid, but intake is usually not enough to meet the daily recommended amount.
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The Task Force, a panel supported by the US government, had also recommended in 2009 that women in the childbearing age take folic acid supplements.
“The U. S. Preventive Services Task Force regularly seeks to the previous recommendations to ensure that the science still supports the previous Task Force recommendation,” Dr. Alex Kemper, a member of the Task Force, told Reuters Health. “In this case, the Task Force was able to confirm the earlier recommendation that all women who can become pregnant should take folic acid supplements to prevent neural tube defects.”
The supplement should contain 0.4 to 0.8 milligrams (mg) of folic acid, the Task Force said in its latest recommendation, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“There are multi-vitamins that the right amount of folic acid, but you can also supplements, without the other components in there,” said Kemper, a pediatrician at Duke University Medical School in Durham, North Carolina.
The recommendation applies to all women who may become pregnant, he said, because the vitamin is important for the earliest days of pregnancy, often before a woman knows she is pregnant.”
Neural tube defects affected about 11 to 12 children per 10,000 births for the united states began pushing supplementation, Kemper told Reuters Health. The rate is currently about 6 to 7 cases per 10,000 births.
Folic acid supplementation is credited with the prevention of 1,200 to 1,300 neural tube defects each year, ” he said.
“Taking folic acid supplementation can prevent very serious birth defects and it is a safe supplement to take,” said Kemper. “I would recommend that a woman who may become pregnant begin taking folic acid supplements per day.”