Posts Tagged ‘folic acid’

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.

Folic acid can help reduce the risk of spina bifida

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

Holding a multivitamin 2If a woman of childbearing age takes 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before and during early pregnancy, it can help reduce her baby’s risk for neural tube defects (NTDs). NTDs are birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. Spina bifida is the most common neural tube defect, affecting 1,500 to 2000 babies a year.

A baby’s neural tube normally develops into the brain and spinal cord. It starts out as a tiny, flat ribbon that turns into a tube by the end of the first month of pregnancy. NTDs happen if the tube doesn’t close completely.

Since birth defects of the brain and spine happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy, they often occur before a woman knows she’s pregnant. This is why it is important for a woman of childbearing age to take folic acid every day, even if she isn’t planning a pregnancy any time soon. By the time a woman realizes she’s pregnant, it might be too late to prevent these birth defects.

Types of spina bifida

There are four types of spina bifida, ranging from mild to severe. The mildest form (occulta), usually doesn’t cause health problems. However, other forms such as closed neural tube, meningocele and myelomeningocele (also known as open spina bifida) may cause symptoms such as bladder problems, infections and paralysis.

Spina bifida can also cause a number of medical conditions. If your child has spina bifida, he will need a team of medical professionals to monitor his health:

  • Pediatrician – a doctor who takes care of babies and children
  • Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician – a pediatrician with additional training in developmental disorders
  • Neurologist – a doctor who treats problems of the nervous system, brain and spinal cord
  • Psychologist – a professional trained to treat social and mental health problems
  • Psychiatrist – a doctor who specializes in treating mental health disorders
  • Urologist – a doctor who treats problems of the urinary tract (kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra)
  • Orthopedist – a doctor trained to treat disorders of bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, nerves, tendons and overall physical movement problems
  • Occupational Therapist – a professional trained to help with activities of daily living and fine motor problems
  • Physical Therapist – a professional trained to treat movement, balance, strength and physical problems

Learn more about the causes, types and treatments of spina bifida, on our website.

Bottom line

Take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, BEFORE and early in pregnancy, to help prevent certain birth defects.

Folic acid – why is it important?

Monday, January 4th, 2016

folic acid vitaminFolic acid is a B vitamin that promotes cell growth and helps prevent certain birth defects. It is Folic Acid Awareness Week – a great time to become familiar with how this vitamin can help you and your baby.

Your body needs to make new cells every day for blood, skin, hair and nails. Folic acid also plays an important role in helping red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body.

How can folic acid help your baby?

Folic acid helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spine, called neural tube defects, if taken before pregnancy and during the first few weeks of pregnancy.  So it is helpful to get in the habit of taking a multi-vitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, before you become pregnant.

Even if you are not planning to become pregnant, your body needs folic acid for normal growth and development.

What if you’re already pregnant?

Most pregnant women need to take a multi-vitamin with 600 micrograms of folic acid. Talk with your prenatal provider to see if this is the right dosage for you. A pregnant women needs extra folic acid throughout pregnancy to help produce the additional blood cells your body needs during pregnancy. Folic acid also supports the rapid growth of the placenta and fetus.

Can you get folic acid anywhere else?

Yes. Many foods have folic acid added to them. On packages of flour, breads, cereals and pastas, look for the words “fortified” or “enriched” – it means the product has folic acid added to it.

You can also get folic acid in its natural form – folate – in some fruits and vegetables. Folate can be found in spinach, black beans, peanuts and orange juice. Learn about the difference between folic acid and folate here.

Bottom line:

Even if you eat a well-balanced diet that includes fortified foods, fruits and veggies, it can still be hard to get enough folic acid every day.  By taking a multi-vitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, you will be sure to get the amount you need.

 

Getting healthy between pregnancies

Friday, May 8th, 2015

snugglingAre you getting ready to celebrate Mother’s Day? Flowers, handmade cards, and breakfast in bed are all lovely gifts. But one of the most important things that you can do as a mom is to give yourself the gift of a healthy pregnancy. If you are planning to have another baby sometime in the future, start now to make sure that your body is ready.

The interconception period is the time between the end of one pregnancy and the beginning of another pregnancy. This time between pregnancies allows you and your provider to address any risk factors that may have contributed to prior pregnancy complications, including premature birth, preeclampsia or gestational diabetes.

Here are some things to consider during the interconception period:

  • Birth spacing: Before getting pregnant again, it is best to wait at least 18 to 23 months. This gives your body time to recover from the previous pregnancy.
  • Preexisting medical conditions: Diabetes or high blood pressure can affect your pregnancy. Making sure these conditions are under control before you get pregnant again is very important. Now is the time to alter any medication dosages or change prescriptions completely. It is also the time to modify any lifestyle factors that may be contributing to your condition.
  • Weight: Trying to get to a healthy weight before pregnancy is very important. Being overweight or not weighing enough can affect your ability to conceive. And if you’re at a healthy weight before pregnancy, you’re less likely than women who weigh too little or too much to have serious complications during pregnancy.
  • Smoking: When you smoke during pregnancy, you pass harmful chemicals through the placenta and umbilical cord into your baby’s bloodstream. This can cause health problems for your baby. Being exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born with low birthweight. And secondhand smoke also is dangerous to your baby after birth. Try to quit smoking before getting pregnant again.
  • Family history: Your family health history can help you and your provider look out for health problems that may run in your family and it may help to find the cause of any past pregnancy problems.
  • Getting enough folic acid: Finally, make sure you continue to take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. All women of child-bearing age, even if they’re not trying to get pregnant, should take folic acid. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects but only if taken before pregnancy and during the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman may even know she’s pregnant. Because nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, it’s important that all women take folic acid every day.

All of us here at News Moms Need wish you a very happy and healthy Mother’s Day!

Questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

World BD day gets word out globally

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

Sick babyThe twitter-sphere was all aglow yesterday for the first-ever World Birth Defects Day. In fact, 6,154,146 people were reached worldwide! Yup. It’s not a typo.

Twelve leading global organizations including the March of Dimes, along with scores of other foundations, hospitals, health care providers, government agencies, parents and individuals with birth defects took to Twitter to raise awareness. People in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, England, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, Panama, Philippines, Rwanda, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland, Tanzania, Turkey, and individuals from all over the United States participated. As the day progressed, #worldbdday tweets continually popped up on my computer screen. In case you missed it, here is a snapshot of important messages.

Birth defects are surprisingly common

Did you know that every 4 ½ minutes a baby is born with a birth defect in the US?

In the US, about 1 in 5 babies die before their 1st birthday due to birth defects.

Birth defects affect 1 in 33 infants worldwide.

More than 8 million babies worldwide are born each year with a serious birth defect.

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

The most common birth defects are heart defects, neural tube defects and Down syndrome.

In the US, a baby is born with a congenital heart defect every 15 minutes.

More than 300,000 major birth defects of the brain and spine occur worldwide each year.

Many birth defects are discovered after the baby leaves the hospital or within the 1st year of life.

More than 3.3 million children under 5 years of age die from birth defects each year.

Babies who survive & live with birth defects are at an increased risk for long-term disabilities & lifelong challenges.

Early intervention services may help babies w/ BDs; get your child help by starting early.

Birth defects are costly. Financial and emotional costs of birth defects take a toll on families and communities worldwide.

Learn how to decrease your risk of having a baby with birth defects

Taking folic acid before & early in pregnancy can help to reduce the risk for BDs of the brain & spine.

Smoking during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of certain BDs. It’s never too late to quit.

We can’t prevent all birth defects. We CAN prevent FASD! (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders)

FASDs are 100% preventable.

Alcohol can cause your baby to have BDs (heart, brain & other organs). Don’t drink if you are pregnant or trying to conceive.

Being overweight before pregnancy can increase the risk for some birth defects.

Not all BDs are preventable, but women can take steps toward a healthy pregnancy.

Make a PACT: plan ahead, avoid harmful substances, choose a healthy lifestyle, and talk to your doctor.

Raise awareness

Awareness of birth defects & the importance of care for children with these lifelong conditions is key.

The mission of the March of Dimes is to prevent birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

March of Dimes has invested more than $50 million in birth defects research in the last 5 years.

Genetics has long been a main theme of March of Dimes research.

MOD grantees have discovered genes that cause or contribute to a number of common birth defects, including fragile X syndrome, cleft lip and palate, and heart defects.

These discoveries pave the way for treatments and preventions for these birth defects.

 

For more information, email AskUs@marchofdimes.org. See other topics in the series on Delays and Disabilities- How to get help for your child, here.

How can we prevent birth defects?

Friday, January 30th, 2015

speak to your health care providerBirth defects are common, costly, and critical.
Common: Every 4 ½ minutes in the United States, a baby is born with a birth defect.
Costly: Hospital costs for children and adults with birth defects exceeds $2.6 billion. That does not include outpatient expenses.
Critical: Birth defects cause 1 in every 5 deaths during the first year of life. They can result in lifelong challenges and disabilities.

As Birth Defects Prevention Month draws to a close, let’s recap what we know and look at steps that can be taken to prevent them.

Preconception and pregnancy planning
We know that it essential for a woman to take an active role in planning her pregnancy.  If you are thinking of having a baby or if you may want to have children sometime in the future, it is important to make a PACT: plan ahead, avoid harmful substances, choose a healthy lifestyle, and talk to your doctor. You can read more here.

Changing a few behaviors now can make a big difference when you are ready to have a baby. It is best to get any preexisting medical conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, under control before pregnancy. Some medications, such as opioid-based prescription pain medications, are not safe to use when you are pregnant. All of these concerns can be discussed with your doctor during a preconception checkup.

Folic acid fortification
It is well known that taking 400 micrograms of folic acid every day can help to reduce the risk of neural tube defects or NTDs (disorders of the brain and spine). Since the US mandated folic acid fortification of enriched cereal grain products in 1998, the rates of NTDs have decreased by 35%.  That means that there are 1,300 fewer NTDs each year as a result of fortification. And that translates into an annual cost savings of approximately $508 million.

Surveillance
State surveillance systems record the number of babies born with a birth defect each year. The information gained from these surveillance systems furthers research on the causes of birth defects. The data also helps researchers to better understand which populations are at highest risk for specific birth defects. This information can then be used by public health professionals, policymakers, and health care providers to implement prevention strategies.

Research
The March of Dimes is funding research to understand the causes of birth defects and to develop new ways to prevent and treat them. Some March of Dimes grantees are studying basic biological processes of development. A more advanced look at the process of development will help reveal what can go wrong along the way. Others researchers are conducting clinical studies aimed at finding ways to prevent or treat specific birth defects.

Birth Defects Prevention Month may be coming to an end, but there is still a lot of work to do. Go to the National Birth Defects Prevention Network to learn more.

Birth Defects: What have we learned?

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Birth defects prevention month CDC guest postSpecial thanks to Coleen Boyle, PhD, MSHyg, Director, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for today’s guest post.

Each January, in recognition of National Birth Defects Prevention Month, we at CDC strive to increase awareness about birth defects and reflect upon all that we have learned so far.  We know what causes some birth defects, such as Down syndrome and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. However, for many birth defects, the causes are unknown.

The good news is that, through research, we’ve learned a lot about what might increase or decrease the risk for birth defects. For example, we know that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Taking certain medications, having uncontrolled diabetes, and smoking cigarettes are all things that can increase the risk for birth defects. We also know that getting enough folic acid, a B vitamin, starting at least one month before getting pregnant and during early pregnancy lowers the risk of having a baby with a major birth defect of the brain or spine.

Each of these research findings represents a building block, a step toward healthy birth outcomes. Understanding the potential causes of birth defects can lead to recommendations and policies to help prevent them. A great example of this is the research on folic acid, which led to the recommendation that all women who can become pregnant should get 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. This important research also contributed to the evidence needed to add folic acid to foods such as enriched breads, pastas, rice and cereals.

These building blocks start to form our foundation for understanding birth defects and help us identify what we still need to study in the future. While we have a learned a lot, much work remains. We at CDC continue to study the causes of birth defects, look for ways to prevent them, and work to improve the lives of people living with these conditions and their families.

To learn more about birth defects research, we invite you to join us at 1PM EST on January 20, 2015 for CDC’s live webcast titled “Understanding the Causes of Major Birth Defects: Steps to Prevention.” Experts in birth defects research will present an overview of current and historical efforts to understand the causes of major birth defects. They will also discuss the challenges in turning research findings into effective prevention. For more information on the upcoming session, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/cdcgrandrounds/.

This year, we encourage you to become an active participant in National Birth Defects Prevention Month.  Post facts about birth defects marked by the hashtag #1in33 on social media or share your story and how birth defects affect you and your family. Join us in a nationwide effort to raise awareness of birth defects, their causes and their impact.