Posts Tagged ‘folic acid’

World Birth Defects Day 2018

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

Every year, an estimated 8 million babies around the world are born with a serious birth defects. In the United States, that’s about 1 in 33 babies. Birth defects are common, costly, and critical. All communities are affected by birth defects. That is why, on March 3, March of Dimes is joining more than 100 organizations from around the world to observe the fourth annual World Birth Defects Day.

Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops or how the body functions. Birth defects are a major cause of child mortality, and those who survive, may face a lifetime of disability.

There are thousands of different birth defects. The most common and severe birth defects are heart defects, neural tube defects and Down syndrome. We don’t know all the reasons why birth defects occur. Some may be caused by the genes you inherit from your parents. Others may be caused by environmental factors, such as exposure to harmful chemicals. Some may be due to a combination of genes and the environment. In most cases, the causes are unknown.

While not all birth defects can be prevented, there are steps you can take to help you have a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby. One of those steps is to take a vitamin supplement with 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid in it every day. Taking folic acid before and during the early weeks of pregnancy can help prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine, called neural tube defects. Even if you’re not trying to get pregnant soon, take a vitamin supplement with folic acid. Take a look at the video at the top of the page to learn more about folic acid.

Join us tomorrow to promote World Birth Defects Day and help raise awareness to help improve the health of all babies around the world.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Lend your voice! Register with your social media account and Thunderclap will post a one-time message on March 3rd. Sign up for the World Birth Defects Day Thunderclap campaign:
  • Participate in the Buzzday on Twitter, March 3 by using the hashtag #WorldBDDay.

Learn more at:

What should you look for in a prenatal vitamin?

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

Your body uses vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to help it stay strong and healthy. During pregnancy it’s hard to get the right amount of some vitamins and minerals just through food. That’s why you should take a prenatal vitamin every day during pregnancy. Taking prenatal vitamins along with eating healthy foods can make sure that you and your baby get the nutrients you both need.

Here’s what you should look for in a prenatal vitamin:

Folic acid: 600 micrograms

Folic acid is a B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for healthy growth and development. Taking it before and during early pregnancy, can help prevent neural tube defects (also called NTDs).

Some foods such as bread, cereal, and corn masa have folic acid added to them. Look for “fortified” or “enriched” on the label.

When folic acid is naturally in a food, it’s called folate. Sources of folate include:

  • Leafy green vegetables, like spinach and broccoli
  • Lentils and beans
  • Orange juice

Iron: 27 milligrams

Iron is a mineral. Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein that helps carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Your body needs twice as much iron during pregnancy to carry oxygen to your baby.

Iron-rich foods include:

  • Lean meat, poultry and seafood
  • Cereal, bread and pasta that has iron added to it (check the package label)
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Beans, nuts, raisins and dried fruit

Calcium: 1,000 milligrams

Calcium is a mineral that helps your baby’s bones, teeth, heart, muscles and nerves develop.

Calcium is found in:

  • Milk, cheese and yogurt
  • Broccoli and kale
  • Orange juice that has calcium added to it (check the label)

Vitamin D: 600 IU (international units)

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and helps your nerves, muscles and immune system work. Your baby needs vitamin D to help his bones and teeth grow.

Vitamin D is found in foods such as:

  • Fatty fish, like salmon
  • Milk and cereal that has vitamin D added to it (check the package label)

DHA: 200 milligrams

DHA stands for docosahexaenoic acid. It’s a kind of fat (called omega-3 fatty acid) that helps with growth and development. During pregnancy, DHA helps your baby’s brain and eyes develop.

Not all prenatal vitamins contain DHA, so ask your provider if you need a DHA supplement. DHA can be found in some foods including:

  • Fish that are low in mercury, like herring, salmon, trout, anchovies and halibut. During pregnancy, eat 8-12 ounces of these kinds of fish each week.
  • Orange juice, milk and eggs that have DHA added to them (check the label)

Iodine: 220 micrograms

Iodine is a mineral your body needs to make thyroid hormones. You need iodine during pregnancy to help your baby’s brain and nervous system develop.

Not all prenatal vitamins have iodine, so make sure you eat foods that have iodine in them. This includes:

  • Fish
  • Milk, cheese and yogurt
  • Enriched or fortified cereal and bread (check the package label)
  • Iodized salt (salt with iodine added to it; check the package label)

A note about vitamin A….

Your baby needs vitamin A for healthy growth and development during pregnancy. But too much may cause birth defects.

Preformed vitamin A is found in foods such as liver and fish liver oil. You should avoid fish liver oil supplements during pregnancy, but occasionally you can eat a small portion of liver. Very high levels of preformed vitamin A can cause birth defects. You should not get more than 10,000 international units (IU) of vitamin A each day.

Beta carotene is another form of vitamin A found in certain yellow and green vegetables. Beta carotene is not associated with birth defects and is safe to consume.

Talk to your health care provider about getting the right amount of vitamin A from healthy eating and your prenatal vitamin.

Make sure to tell your provider about any additional vitamins or supplements that you take.

#ShowYourLove by being your healthiest self

Friday, January 12th, 2018

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. Today’s guest post is from Suzanne Woodward, Communications Director at the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative (PCHHC), to help raise awareness on the steps women can take to be as healthy as possible before having a baby.

Love it or hate it, January is a great time to reflect, set intentions, and start fresh. The bustle around “New Year, Healthier You” is a great opportunity to let yourself be motivated by and encourage others to take steps toward your health and life goals. What did you love about 2017 that you want to keep in your life? What new experiences or attitudes would you like to welcome into this New Year? What support do you need to make this happen? Is starting a family or growing your family in the cards for 2018? This is the cornerstone theme for the #ShowYourLoveToday consumer health and wellness campaign. Have you heard of it?

Show Your Love aims to help young adults live and grow to their full health potential. For themselves, their families and/or for their future families if they choose to have one.

Why is a health and wellness campaign called “Show Your Love?”
We know that women are busy – often caring for friends, family, colleagues and others before themselves. Taking the time to invest in yourself – to give yourself the same love and respect you give to others – is important. Because by showing love to YOURSELF, you are more likely to have the energy and focus you need to work toward your goals and life plans.

How can you show love for yourself?
You “show your love” in many ways. Some ideas could be taking time to walk, take the stairs not the elevator, pray/meditate, get more sleep, get a physical “tune up” with your health care provider, add a fruit and vegetable to your meal, drink less soda, take a vitamin, learn about your family’s health history, and protect yourself against sexually transmitted infections (all called, STI), sunburn and insect bites. Maybe this is the  year that you will focus on stopping habits like tobacco and binge drinking that may help you cope with stress but don’t help you reach your goals. Take stock of the relationships in your life – do they build you up or take you down? Do you have people in your life who might want to join you in making positive changes?

If a baby is definitely NOT in your future for 2018, make sure that you are happy with your contraceptive plan whether that’s abstinence, an IUD or anything in between. If getting pregnant is on your list then you can show your love to your future baby this year too by taking care of you now.

How can you show love for others?
Some ideas could be as simple as encouraging your loved ones to make ONE healthier choice each day, asking about their goals, sharing your health and wellness tips, supporting their efforts to understand their health, telling YOUR story and influencing others (to name a few!). By showing your love for other, you show love for yourself.

Many health “resolutions” offer a two for one benefit. They are good for women AND lay the foundation for a healthy next generation too.

Whether you ARE planning to become pregnant or NOT in 2018, there are critical steps that can be taken TODAY to improve your own overall health and wellness AND increase the chance of a healthy baby. This January, the Show Your Love campaign is proud to partner with the March of Dimes to raise awareness about the 1 in 33 babies born with a birth defect. While not all birth defects are preventable, practicing self-care before becoming pregnant can reduce the risk of birth defects. Some key areas for birth defect prevention include:

You can find full health and wellness, life and/or reproductive planning checklists here. These checklists can support you with tips to get healthy before, during or after pregnancy.

Show Your Love is a virtual community of young adults striving to live healthier and encouraging each other along the way. Join our Ambassador Network (it’s free) and share your health journey/goals/messages. I will plug: it is a fun group, an easy way to connect and elevate your voice, and we have lots of cool incentives for healthy challenges. Follow and contribute to our conversation on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook using #ShowYourLoveToday.

Show Your Love is led by the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative (PCHHC), a public-private partnership of 90+ national organizations working to advance preconception health. PCHHC is hosting a Tweet chat with the March of Dimes and Mother to Baby on January 30, 2-3pm ET. Join us on Twitter using: #Prevent2Protect.

We can’t wait to hear from YOU!

Want more information about PCHHC or Show Your Love? Email Suzanne at Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Are you getting your daily folic acid dose? Check the label

Monday, January 8th, 2018

Folic acid is a B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for normal growth and development. It helps your body make red blood cells that carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body. If you take folic acid before and during early pregnancy, it can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects (also called NTDs). Some studies show that it also may help prevent heart defects in a baby and birth defects in a baby’s mouth called cleft lip and palate.

How can you be sure you’re getting the right amount of folic acid?

The best way to get the right amount of folic acid is to take a daily multivitamin that has 400 mcg of folic acid. Check the back of your bottle for the label (also called supplement facts). Look for the word “folate” on the label to see how much folic acid you’re getting.

The label tells you this information:

• Serving size. This tells you how much of the product is in one serving. One multivitamin usually is one serving.

• Servings per container. This tells you how many servings are in a multivitamin bottle. For example, if two pills is one serving and the bottle has 30 multivitamins in it, that’s 15 servings.

• Nutrients, like vitamin D, folate and calcium, in each serving

• Daily value (also called DV) of one serving. DV is the amount of a nutrient in a serving. For example, if the DV of folic acid in a multivitamin is 50 percent, that multivitamin gives you 50 percent (half) of the folic acid you need each day.

What else do I need to know about the labels?

Multivitamin labels now give new information about folic acid. In the past, they just listed mcg of folic acid. Now they list “mcg DFE of folate.” For example, for folate you’ll see “400 mcg DFE.” DFE stands for dietary folate equivalent. It’s the amount of folate your body absorbs. If a serving has less than 400 mcg DFE of folate, you need more than one serving to get all the folic acid you need each day.

Can I get folic acid from food?

Some foods have folic acid added to them. Look for the word “fortified” or “enriched” on the package label on foods like:
• Bread
• Breakfast cereal
• Cornmeal
• Flour
• Pasta
• Products made from a kind of flour called corn masa, like tortillas, tortilla chips, taco shells, tamales and pupusas
• White rice

Some fruits and vegetables are good sources of folic acid. When folic acid is naturally in a food, it’s called folate. Folate is found in lentils, black beans, peanuts, leafy green veggies like romaine lettuce and spinach, citrus fruits and orange juice.

It’s hard to get all the folic acid you need from food. Even if you eat foods that have folic acid in them, take your multivitamin each day, too. Labels on food products don’t always list the amount of folic acid in the product. New food labels that list folic acid will list mcg DFE of folate, just like for multivitamins.

Read more about why folic acid is important to you and your baby.

Prenatal health and nutrition start before pregnancy

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

Today’s guest post is written by Donna Dell of Mission Pharmacal on the findings of a survey, conducted in part by March of Dimes, on the importance of taking folic acid before and during pregnancy.

Did you know that taking multivitamins or vitamins containing folic acid is an important component for a healthy mom and baby?

A recent survey conducted by the March of Dimes, in partnership with Mission Pharmacal, showed that only 34 percent of women ages 18-45 started taking a prenatal vitamin or multivitamin before they knew they were pregnant, and the number drops to 27 percent for Hispanic women and to 10 percent for African-American/black women.

Taking a multivitamin containing folic acid every day before and during pregnancy can help prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine, also called neural tube defects. More than 120,000 babies — or three percent of all births — will be born with birth defects in the U.S. this year.

Here are some other key findings from the survey:

  • While, 97% of women reported taking prenatal vitamins or multivitamins during their last or current pregnancy, 36% of women of childbearing age said they are currently not taking any vitamin or mineral supplements at all.
  • 77% of all women worry that there may be changes to the healthcare system that may negatively impact access to prenatal care.
  • 43% of women who have been or are currently pregnant reported that cost affected when and whether they sought prenatal care for their pregnancy.
  • 84% of women who reported being familiar with folic acid either didn’t know (59%) or weren’t sure of the recommended amount of the nutrient is needed, in order to help have a healthy baby or pregnancy.

So, what are some steps you can take to support a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby?

  • Take a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin containing at least 400 micro-grams (mcg) of folic acid every day before pregnancy to help prevent serious birth defects.
  • If you’re thinking of having a baby, see your health care provider for a preconception checkup and talk about prescription or over-the-counter vitamins.
  • Once you are pregnant, keep getting your folic acid by taking a prenatal vitamin every day containing 600 mcg.
  • Iron, calcium, vitamin D, DHA and iodine have also been found to play a key role in a baby’s growth and development during pregnancy.
  • Folic acid comes in different forms other than vitamins. Look for the words “fortified” or “enriched” on the package label of foods such as bread, breakfast cereal, flour, pasta, and products made from corn masa, and white rice.
  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol, and stay up-to-date on vaccines.

Please visit for the latest health information, resources and tools for moms and babies.

September is Infant Mortality Awareness month

Monday, September 18th, 2017

Infant mortality is the death of a baby before his or her first birthday. According to the CDC, in 2015 the infant mortality rate in the United States was 5.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. That means that in 2015 over 23,000 infants died before their first birthday.

Causes of infant mortality

In the US, the leading causes of infant mortality are:

  1. Birth defects
  2. Premature birth and low birthweight
  3. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  4. Maternal pregnancy complications
  5. Injuries (such as suffocation).

What can you do?

Not all causes of infant mortality can be prevented. But there are some steps that you can take to reduce the risks of certain birth defects, premature birth, some pregnancy complications, and SIDS.

Take a multivitamin with 400mcg of folic acid. While there are many different types of birth defects, taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects (NTDs). Some studies show that it also may help prevent heart defects and cleft lip and palate.

Get a preconception checkup before pregnancy. Being healthy before pregnancy can help prevent pregnancy complications when you do get pregnant. Your provider can also identify any risk factors and make sure they are treated before you get pregnant.

Get early and regular prenatal care. This lets your provider make sure you and your baby are healthy. She can also identify and treat any problems that may arise during your pregnancy.

Stay at a healthy weight and be active. Getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy may help you to avoid some complications during pregnancy.

Quit smoking and avoid alcohol and street drugs. Alcohol, drugs and harmful chemicals from smoke can pass directly through the umbilical cord to your baby. This can cause serious problems during pregnancy, including miscarriage, birth defects and premature birth.

Space pregnancies at least 18 months apart. This allows your body time to fully recover from your last pregnancy before it’s ready for your next pregnancy. Getting pregnant again before 18 months can increase the chance of premature birth, low birthweight, and having a baby that is small for gestational age.

Create a safe sleeping environment for your baby. Put your baby to sleep on his or her back on a flat, firm surface (like a crib mattress). The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that you and your baby sleep in the same room, but not in the same bed, for the first year of your baby’s life, but at least for the first 6 months.

The March of Dimes is helping improve babies’ chances of being born healthy and staying healthy by funding research into the causes of birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

Have questions? Email us at




What are cleft lip and cleft palate?

Friday, July 7th, 2017

cleft lipCleft lip and cleft palate occur when a baby’s lip or mouth do not form completely during pregnancy. A cleft lip is an opening in a baby’s upper lip. Cleft palate occurs when a baby’s palate (the roof of the mouth) has an opening in it. About 2,650 babies are born with a cleft palate and 4,440 babies are born with a cleft lip with or without a cleft palate each year in the United States.

What causes cleft lip and cleft palate?

Cleft lip and palate happen very early in pregnancy. Your baby’s lips form between 4 and 7 weeks of pregnancy, and the palate forms between 6 and 9 weeks of pregnancy. Oral clefts don’t have to happen together—a baby can have one without the other.

We’re not sure what causes cleft lip and cleft palate. They may be caused by a combination of factors, like genes and things in your environment, such as medicines you may take. Some risk factors include:

  • Smoking.
  • Diabetes. If you have diabetes before pregnancy, you have an increased risk of having a baby with a cleft lip with or without cleft palate, compared to women who do not have diabetes.
  • Taking certain medicines. If you have epilepsy and take anti-seizure medicines (like topiramate or valproic acid) during the first trimester, you’re more likely to have a baby with cleft lip (with or without cleft palate) than women who don’t take these medicines.

How are cleft lip and cleft palate treated?

In most cases, surgery is needed. Each baby is unique, but surgery to repair cleft lip usually is done at 10 to 12 weeks of age. Surgery for cleft palate is done between 9 and 18 months of age. Children who have a cleft lip or palate may need services such as speech therapy and special dental care as they get older.

Can cleft lip and cleft palate be prevented?

These conditions cannot always be prevented. But here are some things you can do to reduce the chance of your baby having a cleft:

  • Take folic acid. Before pregnancy, take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid in it every day. During pregnancy, take a prenatal vitamin with 600 micrograms of folic acid in it every day.
  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
  • Get a preconception checkup.
  • Get to a healthy weight before pregnancy and talk to your provider about gaining a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy.
  • Talk to your provider to make sure any medicine you take is safe during pregnancy. Don’t stop taking any medicine without talking to your provider first.
  • Get early and regular prenatal care.
  • Protect yourself from infections. Make sure all your vaccinations are up to date, especially for rubella. Wash your hands often.

You can learn more about cleft lip and cleft palate on our website.

“I just found out I’m pregnant and I haven’t been taking folic acid. What should I do?”

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Pregnant couple with providerThis is a question we often receive through The good news is that no matter when you find out you are pregnant, you will still benefit from taking a daily prenatal vitamin that contains 600 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid.

Folic acid is B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for normal growth and development. It helps your body make red blood cells that carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body.

Before pregnancy, we recommend taking a daily multivitamin that contains 400 mcg of folic acid to help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine, or neural tube defects. As soon as you find out you are pregnant, begin taking a daily prenatal vitamin with 600 mcg of folic acid. Your health care provider can prescribe prenatal vitamins for you, or you can get them over the counter without a prescription – just be sure to check the label.

Folic acid is important before and during early pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects in your baby. However, a pregnant woman needs extra folic acid throughout her pregnancy to help her produce the additional blood cells her body needs. Folic acid also supports the rapid growth of the placenta and your baby, and is needed to produce new DNA (genetic material) as cells multiply.

If you have not been taking a multivitamin that contains folic acid up until now, perhaps you have been getting folic acid from food sources. Fortunately, in the United States, most grain products are fortified with folic acid (such as cereals, breads, pasta, etc.), so you are likely getting a certain amount of folic acid from your diet. Products that say “enriched” or “fortified” usually contain folic acid, but check product labels to be sure.

You also can get folic acid from some fruits and vegetables. When folic acid is naturally found in a food, it’s called folate. Foods that are good sources of folate are:

    • Beans, like lentils, pinto beans and black beans
    • Leafy green vegetables, like spinach and Romaine lettuce
    • Asparagus
    • Broccoli
    • Peanuts (But don’t eat them if you have a peanut allergy)
    • Citrus fruits, like oranges and grapefruit
    • Orange juice (From concentrate is best)

Folic acid is very important throughout your pregnancy, so even if you have been eating the foods listed, you should still take a prenatal vitamin with the recommended amount of folic acid.

Have questions? Text or email us at

Looking for a New Year’s Resolution? We’ve got 9 for you.

Friday, December 30th, 2016

“Your health before and during pregnancy has a direct impact on your baby,” says Dr. Siobhan Dolan, the March of Dimes medical advisor and co-author of Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby: The Ultimate Pregnancy Guide. “The good news is that there are many things you can do as a mom-to-be that can protect your own health and help you have a healthy baby.”

Birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you are pregnant or planning a baby this season, make a New Year’s resolution to be as healthy as possible.

Here are Dr. Dolan’s 9 New Year’s Resolutions for moms-to-be:

  1. Take a daily multivitamin containing the B vitamin folic acid, even if you’re not trying to become pregnant. Getting enoughmultivitamin folate or folic acid before pregnancy can help prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine. It’s a good idea to eat foods that contain folate, the natural form of folic acid, including lentils, green leafy vegetables, black beans, and orange juice. In addition, some foods are fortified with folic acid, including enriched grain products such as bread, cereal, and pasta, and certain corn masa products such as tortilla chips and tacos. Be sure to check package labels.
  2. Be up-to-date with your vaccinations (shots). Talk to your healthcare provider about vaccinations you should receive before or during pregnancy.
  3. Don’t eat raw or undercooked meat, raw or runny eggs, unpasteurized (raw) juice or dairy products, raw sprouts — or products made with them.
  4. Handle food safely. Be sure to wash all knives, utensils, cutting boards, and dishes used to prepare raw meat, fish or poultry before they come into contact with other foods.
  5. Maintain good hygiene. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before preparing or eating foods; after being around or touching pets and other animals; and after changing diapers or wiping runny noses.
  6. Do not put a young child’s food, utensils, drinking cups, or pacifiers in your mouth.
  7. Protect yourself from animals and insects known to carry diseases such as Zika virus, including mosquitos. Find out more at
  8. Stay away from wild or pet rodents, live poultry, lizards and turtles during pregnancy.
  9. Let someone else clean the cat litter box!

Besides taking a daily multivitamin containing folic acid to prevent birth defects of the brain and spine, women can take the above steps to avoid infections that can hurt them and their babies during pregnancy. Foodborne illnesses, viruses, and parasites can cause birth defects and lifelong disabilities, such as hearing loss or learning problems.

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month – the perfect time to learn what you can do to have a healthy pregnancy. We’ll have posts every week on different birth defects topics. So, be sure to be on the look-out for more info!

Have questions? Text or email them to


FDA approves folic acid fortification of corn masa — a great day for babies!

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

Hispanic mom and babyToday the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it will allow corn masa flour to be fortified with folic acid. This announcement is a victory for America’s mothers and babies, and caps more than 20 years of work by the March of Dimes to prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine known as neural tube defects (NTDs).

Scientists have long recognized that folic acid can prevent NTDs.  After wheat flour and related products were required to be fortified with folic acid in 1996, the incidence of neural tube defects dropped by about one-third.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates folic acid fortification in the U.S. has saved about 1,300 babies each year from these fatal or devastating birth defects – a total of 26,000 babies born healthy since folic acid fortification began in 1998.

But corn masa flour wasn’t part of that rule, and that may be part of the reason that neural tube defect rates have remained higher among Hispanic babies. Foods like tortillas, tamales, pupusas, chips and taco shells can now be fortified. Adding folic acid to corn masa will help to prevent neural tube defects.

The March of Dimes looks forward to the prevention of even more NTDs in the U.S. — giving more babies a chance for a full, happy life, and giving their families the joy of a healthy child.

Please join us in thanking the FDA by tweeting to @US_FDA or posting on their Facebook wall with messages like these:

Join our Advocacy Action Center for updates about how you can make a difference for healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.