The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) Office of Screening and Special Services is committed to informing Oklahoma mothers of the benefits of making folic acid a healthy habit this new year. January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month and the Folic Acid Awareness Campaign is aimed at raising awareness of the benefits of taking a multivitamin with 400 mcg of folic acid before, during, and after pregnancies. Folic acid is an essential B-vitamin that the body needs to make new cells.
Everyone needs folic acid every day. It is very important for women because it can help prevent up to 70% of Neural Tube Defects (NTDs). NTDs are serious birth defects that occur when the brain and spine are forming during the first 28 days of pregnancy before most women know they are pregnant.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 3,000 pregnancies are affected by a NTD each year in the U.S. From 1994 to 2011, 709 infants in Oklahoma were born with a NTD.
As a result of increasing efforts to supplement folic acid, the prevalence of NTDs in Oklahoma declined from 10 per 10,000 live births in 1994 to four cases per 10,000 live births in 2011.
OSDH’s folic acid efforts include: providing multivitamins to family planning clinics at the local county health departments, providing education about birth defects and folic acid to health care professionals and community members, and providing free folic acid educational materials.
OSDH Office of Screening and Special Services recommends taking a multivitamin with 400 mcg of folic acid, eating fortified foods, along with a healthy diet. “Diet, life-style choices, factors in the environment, health conditions and medications before and during pregnancy all can play a role in preventing or increasing the risk of birth defects,” said Sharon Vaz, director of Screening and Special Services and Program Manager for the Oklahoma Birth Defects Program.