Posts Tagged ‘folic acid’

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.

Have questions? Send them AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

“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 AskUs@marchofdimes.org. 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 AskUS@marchofdimes.org

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 ZAPzika.org.
  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 AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

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.

Wrapping up birth defects prevention month

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Baby girl smilingWe’ve had a busy month spreading the word about birth defects. If you’ve missed some posts, here is a wrap up of messages. More posts will be coming each week, so stay tuned.

Birth defects are common.

  • Did you know that every 4.5 minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect in the U.S.? That’s 1 in 33 babies or more than 120,000 babies each year.
  • Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They may affect how the body looks, works, or both.
  • Common birth defects include heart defects, cleft lip and cleft palate, Down syndrome and spina bifida. Some birth defects are on the rise for unknown reasons – like gastroschisis.
  • Birth defects are the leading cause of infant deaths in the first year of life in the U.S.
  • Birth defects are critical. They are the leading cause of death and disability in children across the world.

There are thousands of different birth defects, and about 70 % of the causes are unknown.

  • Birth defects are thought to be caused by a complex mix of factors including our genes, behaviors and environment.
  • Birth defects are costly. The CDC says, each year, total hospital costs for U.S. children and adults with birth defects exceed $2.6 billion.
  • Many birth defects are discovered after the baby leaves the hospital or within the first year of life.
  • Babies who survive and live with birth defects are at an increased risk for long-term disabilities and lifelong challenges.

Not all birth defects can be prevented, but some can.

  • Women can take steps toward a healthy pregnancy. Taking 400 micrograms of folic acid during childbearing years can help to reduce the risk for birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects (NTDs).
  • Pregnant or trying to conceive? Here are steps you can take to help prevent birth defects and have a healthy pregnancy.
  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and “street” drugs during pregnancy. Talk to your provider before you start or stop taking any type of medications.
  • Prevent infections during pregnancy – wash your hands often and well.
  • Make sure your vaccinations are up to to date.
  • Get chronic medical conditions under control before pregnancy. Diabetes and obesity may increase the risk for birth defects.
  • Collect your family health history and share it with your healthcare provider.

Share and connect

Birth defects can happen to any family. Share and connect with others on our online community Share Your Story.

Have questions? Email our Health Education Specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Anencephaly: causes, risks & what you can do

Monday, January 25th, 2016

About 1,206 pregnancies are affected by anencephaly each year in the U.S.

Anencephaly is a serious birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the brain, skull and scalp. As a baby’s neural tube develops and closes, it helps form the baby’s brain and skull, spinal cord, and back bones. Anencephaly is a type of neural tube defect (NTD) that happens if the upper part of the neural tube does not close all the way. A baby with anencephaly will be missing large parts of the brain that are necessary for thinking, hearing, vision, emotion and coordinating movement. Other parts of the brain are often not covered by bone or skin.

Babies born with anencephaly have reflexes such as breathing and response to touch and sound, however because of the severity of the condition, almost all babies with anencephaly die before birth or within a few hours or days after birth.

What causes anencephaly?

In most cases, the cause is unknown. Some cases are caused by a change in the baby’s genes or chromosomes. Anencephaly may also be caused by a combination of genes and other environmental factors. Scientists are continuing to study anencephaly in order to discover the causes.

What are the risk factors?

  • Low intake of folic acid before getting pregnant and in early pregnancy increases the risk of having a pregnancy affected by a NTD including anencephaly.
  • Babies born to Hispanic mothers are at an increased risk for anencephaly; reasons for the increased risk are not well understood.

How is anencephaly diagnosed?

  • During pregnancy: a woman can have screening tests done during her prenatal visits. Anencephaly would result in an abnormal result on a blood or serum screening test. Anencephaly might be seen during an ultrasound.
  • After a baby is born: anencephaly is immediately seen at birth.

Is there anything you can do to lower your risk?

Yes.

  • Take a multivitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before and early in pregnancy. Make sure to take your multivitamin even if you are not thinking about becoming pregnant any time soon. Since the U.S. started requiring that folic acid be added to certain foods, there has been a 28% reduction in cases of babies born with NTDs.
  • If you are pregnant, make sure you go to all of your prenatal visits and eat a well-balanced diet
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking and talk to your provider about any medications or drugs you are taking.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

What you need to know about birth defects

Monday, January 18th, 2016

snugglingEvery 4 ½ minutes in the US, a baby is born with a birth defect. That means that nearly 120,000 (or 1 in every 33) babies are affected by birth defects each year. They are a leading cause of death in the first year of life, causing one in every five infant deaths and they lead to $2.6 billion per year in hospital costs alone in the United States.

What are birth defects?

Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body and can affect any part of the body (such as the heart, brain, foot, etc). They may affect how the body looks, works, or both.

There are thousands of different birth defects and they can be very mild or very severe. Some do not require any treatment, while others may require surgery or lifelong medical interventions.

What causes birth defects?

We know what causes certain birth defects. For instance, drinking alcohol while you are pregnant can cause your baby to be born with  physical birth defects and mental impairment. And genetic conditions, such as cystic fibrosis or sickle cell disease, are the result of inheriting a mutation (change) in a single gene. However, we do not know what causes the majority of birth defects. In most cases, it is a number of complex factors. The interaction of multiple genes, personal behaviors, and our environment all may all play a role.

Can we prevent birth defects?

Most birth defects cannot be prevented. But there are some things that a woman can do before and during pregnancy to increase her chance of having a healthy baby:

  • See your healthcare provider before pregnancy and start prenatal care as soon as you think you’re pregnant.
  • Get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Folic acid reduces the chance of having a baby with a neural tube defect.
  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and “street” drugs.
  • Talk to your provider about any medications you are taking, including prescription and over-the-counter medications and any dietary or herbal supplements. Talk to your provider before you start or stop taking any type of medications.
  • Prevent infections during pregnancy. Wash your hands and make sure your vaccinations are up to date.
  • Make sure chronic medical conditions are under control, before pregnancy. Some conditions, like diabetes and obesity, may increase the risk for birth defects.
  • Learn about your family health history.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Folic acid fortification saves millions of dollars and reduces neural tube defects

Friday, January 15th, 2016

grainSince the U.S. started requiring that folic acid be added to certain foods (known as fortification), there has been a 28% reduction in cases of babies born with neural tube defects (NTDs). In addition, a recent study has found that fortification also saves hundreds of millions of dollars each year in medical and associated costs.

In 1998, to help women of child-bearing age get more folic acid, the US Food and Drug Administration mandated that grains, such as bread, pasta, and breakfast cereal be fortified with folic acid. Getting the right amount of folic acid before pregnancy helps to prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, called neural tube defects (NTDs). Neural tube defects include anencephaly and spina bifida.

A study published this week, estimates how much money has been saved by fortifying grain products with folic acid. The study suggests that each year, folic acid fortification saves about $603 million dollars more than the cost of fortification. The estimated lifetime cost for medical care, special education, and caregiver time for a child born with spina bifida is approximately $791,900. Since fortification prevents about 767 cases of spina bifida each year, the annual cost savings are substantial. The authors of the study conclude that “Fortification with folic acid is effective in preventing NTDs and saves hundreds of millions of dollars each year.”

The March of Dimes supports fortifying corn masa flour with folic acid. By targeting food made with corn masa for folic acid fortification, it would be possible to lower the rate of NTDs among the Hispanic population as well.

Keep in mind that even if you eat a well-balanced diet that includes fortified foods, fruits and vegetables, it can still be hard to get enough folic acid. So make sure you take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Folic acid is in many cereals

Monday, January 11th, 2016

Bowl of cerealGetting enough folic acid before pregnancy doesn’t have to be a chore. Taking a multivitamin that contains folic acid is an easy way to get the amount you need. In addition, many breakfast cereals contain folic acid because it has been added to them – this is called fortification. You can check to see if your favorite cereal is fortified by reading the nutritional label on the box.

Here is information from the CDC along with a list of cereals fortified with folic acid.  Be sure to read the label to see the amount of folic acid in a single serving.

But remember…

Although cereal fortification is a good thing, it can still be hard to get enough folic acid every day. This is why taking a multi-vitamin that contains at least 400 micrograms of folic acid is recommended. But, be sure to check with your health care provider to see if you may need higher amounts of folic acid.

Once you’re pregnant, your folic acid needs will increase to at least 600 micrograms per day. Some women, like those who’ve had a pregnancy affected by NTDs (neural tube defects) or women with sickle cell disease, may need more.

Bottom line

Read labels, take your multivitamin with folic acid, and talk to your provider to make sure you are getting the right amount of folic acid every day, before you become pregnant, as well as during pregnancy.

Three common folic acid myths

Friday, January 8th, 2016

pills-moon vitaminWe receive a lot of questions about folic acid. Here are three of the most common misconceptions people seem to have.

Myth #1: Folic acid reduces the risk for ALL birth defects.

TRUTH: Folic acid reduces the risk of certain birth defects.

Folic acid reduces the risk for a very specific type of birth defect called a neural tube defect (NTD). The neural tube is the part of a developing baby that becomes the brain and spinal cord. A NTD can happen when the neural tube doesn’t close completely. This results in birth defects such as anencephaly and spina bifida. If all women take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day before getting pregnant and during early pregnancy, it may help reduce the number of pregnancies affected by NTDs by up to 70 percent.

Myth #2: Folic acid will help me to get pregnant.

TRUTH: Folic acid is important to take before pregnancy, but it will not help you to become pregnant.

Folic acid does not help a woman to conceive. However, it is recommended that ALL women take folic acid, even if they are not trying to get pregnant. This is because folic acid can help prevent neural tube defects only if it is taken BEFORE pregnancy and during the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows she is pregnant.

The neural tube is one of the first structures that is formed in a developing embryo, therefore you need to make sure you are taking folic acid BEFORE you are pregnant. And because nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, it’s important that all women take folic acid every day, even if they are not planning to get pregnant. So take a multivitamin that has 400 micrograms of folic acid in it every day. Most multivitamins have this amount, but check the label to be sure.

Myth #3: I eat a healthy diet, so I can get enough folic acid from food.

TRUTH: It may be possible, but most women will not get enough from their diet.

Folic acid is naturally available in many fruits and vegetables, including:

  • 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

Many flours, breads, cereals, and pasta are fortified with folic acid, as well. This means they have folic acid added to them. You can look for the words “fortified” or “enriched” on the package to know if the product has folic acid in it.

However, it’s hard to get all the folic acid you need from food. And according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), your body only absorbs about 50 % of that. So even if you eat foods that have folic acid in them, make sure you take your multivitamin each day too.

Some women, like those who’ve had a pregnancy affected by NTDs or women with sickle cell disease, may need more folic acid. Talk to your provider to make sure you get the right amount.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.