Posts Tagged ‘multivitamin’

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?


  • 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


Is baby getting enough vitamin D? Are you?

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

We have long said, and still do, that breastmilk is best for infants. It is full of important minerals and nutrients to help your little one grow. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t contain enough vitamin D to meet the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines.

Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium and phosphorus. Breastfed babies need an additional 400 IU of vitamin D each day until they’re weaned to fortified formula and can drink at least one liter (about 4 ¼ cups) every day. Starting at age 1, babies drinking plenty of milk fortified with vitamin D may no longer need a vitamin D supplement.

As your children grow and start eating solids, include foods that are rich in vitamin D, like fatty fish, eggs, and milk. But be aware that older children and even adults have a hard time getting the recommended levels of the vitamin through food alone.  Check with your child’s doc to see if she should take a supplement with 400 IU to 600 IU. That amount is often included in chewable multivitamins which most kids like taking. Children with some chronic diseases such as cystic fibrosis may be at increased risk for vitamin D deficiency and may need an even higher dose in a supplement.

You may have heard that the body makes its own vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet B (UBV) rays from the sun. While true, sun exposure can be hazardous to baby’s skin and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of 6 months avoid sun exposure. All other children and adults need to slather on the sunscreen throughout the day which can block the production of vitamin D. Pregnant women have particularly sensitive skin and should pay attention to sunscreen.

Important note: Be sure not to give too much vitamin D to babies. More of a good thing often is not good. High doses can cause a host of symptoms including nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, excessive thirst, muscle aches, or more serious symptoms. Some researchers are beginning to suggest that adults should take far more vitamin D than the 600 IU daily guideline. But too much may be dangerous. Very high doses of vitamin D can raise your blood calcium level, causing damage to blood vessels, heart, and kidneys. The Institute of Medicine sets the upper tolerable limit at 4,000 IU of vitamin D per day. Check with your health care provider for the right amount for you.

And what about additional vitamin D from the sun? Fortunately, you can’t get too much vitamin D from the sun because your body simply stops making more. But don’t forget that sun exposure without plenty of sunscreen can raise your risk of skin cancer. So, apply the sunscreen and take whatever supplement your provider recommends.

Folic acid awareness – pay attention!

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

grains-and-veggiesNot enough American women understand that consuming the B vitamin folic acid every day can help prevent serious birth defects and that they should take it before they become pregnant. Did you?

Studies show that if all women consumed the recommended amount of folic acid before and during early pregnancy, up to 70 percent of all birth defects of the brain and spine known as neural tube defects (NTDs), such as spina bifida, could be prevented.  The most recent March of Dimes survey revealed that only 28 percent of women of childbearing age knew folic acid can prevent birth defects and only 11 said they knew that folic acid should be consumed prior to pregnancy.  Wow, those are really low numbers for something so important!

This January, as part of National Birth Defects Prevention Month, we’re trying to remind all women of child-bearing age of this really important role folic acid plays in preventing birth defects. Daily consumption of the B vitamin folic acid beginning before pregnancy is crucial because NTDs can occur in the early weeks following conception, often before a woman knows she is pregnant.

We urge all women of childbearing age to consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily.  Bread, crackers, bagels, pasta, pretzels and tortillas made from fortified, enriched white flour are popular and important sources of folic acid.  In fact, enriched grain products have been fortified with twice the amount of folic acid found in whole grain products. Other good sources are leafy green veggies like spinach and kale, dried beans, legumes, oranges and orange juice.  And you’ll find it in a daily multivitamin, too.

Taking folic acid as part of your daily routine before, during and after pregnancy is a great New Year’s resolution!

Extra calories and breastfeeding

Monday, December 14th, 2009

The number of calories a woman needs while breastfeeding depends upon how much body fat she has and how active she is. While women are often advised to consume about 500 extra calories daily while they are breastfeeding, research now shows that this could be too much for some women, while for others it could be insufficient.

Most breastfeeding women need to increase not only the calories they consume, but all the nutrients that make up their diet in order to satisfy the additional requirements of milk synthesis, though for some women the increase will be minimal. If her diet is balanced and varied, the increase in calories will automatically be accompanied by an increase in all the other nutrients. If you wish, you can continue to take your prenatal vitamin or another multivitamin to ensure that you are getting 100% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA).

Vitamin A – How much should I take?

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

vitamins-26377178_thm1We talk about the importance of taking folic acid before and during pregnancy, but there are other vitamins to consider, too. Some are good, some in high doses aren’t so great during pregnancy.  While vitamin A is needed for normal fetal growth and development, taking too much vitamin A during pregnancy can cause birth defects. Start keeping an eye on your vitamin A consumption before pregnancy. Watch what you eat as well as the vitamins you take.

The body is able to make its own vitamin A, when needed, from substances such as beta carotene, which is found in yellow and green vegetables. This raw material for the vitamin is considered completely safe and healthy during pregnancy. However, much of the vitamin A we consume is the preformed vitamin (retinol) which, in excessive amounts, may cause birth defects. Preformed vitamin A is found in many vitamin supplements and some foods, including meats, eggs, dairy products and fortified breakfast cereals.

Liver is the only food that provides very high amounts of vitamin A. The amount of vitamin A found in liver varies. For example, a 3-ounce serving of beef liver may contain 27,000 IU and chicken liver, 12,000 IU. A pregnant woman who eats liver regularly may consume enough vitamin A to pose a risk to her baby.  Though it is not proven that eating liver causes birth defects, the safest approach is for pregnant women to minimize their consumption of liver.

A pregnant woman also should be sure that her multivitamin or prenatal supplement contains no more than 5,000 IU (international units) of preformed vitamin A (some prenatal vitamins contain no preformed vitamin A, substituting beta-carotene or omitting vitamin A entirely), and she should not take any vitamin A supplements beyond that amount.

Before taking any supplement, talk with your health care provider about whether you personally need it and, if so, how much you should take.  And when it comes to vitamin A, be sure to discuss your diet, too.

9 questions to ask your provider before you get pregnant

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

There are things you can do, before you get pregnant, to help give your baby a better chance of a healthy and full-term birth. See your health care provider before pregnancy and ask about the following topics.

What do I need to know about…

1. Diabetes, high blood pressure, infections or other health problems?
2. Medicines or home remedies?
3. Taking a multivitamin pill with folic acid in it each day?
4. Getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy?
5. Smoking, drinking alcohol and taking illegal drugs?
6. Unsafe chemicals or other things I should stay away from at home or at work?
7. Taking care of myself and lowering my stress?
8. How long to wait between pregnancies?
9. My family history, including premature birth?

Confessions of a health information specialist

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

When we decided we were ready for a baby I went to my doctor first and she wrote me a prescription for prenatal vitamins. I’ll admit…I was not a multivitamin taker before then (insert “gasping” sound here). I know, I know!! All women of reproductive age should take a daily multivitamin as a part of a healthy diet and because pregnancy isn’t always planned for. Quite honestly, before I started working for the March of Dimes I had no idea how important that was for me and you. OK, so I fessed-up. What about you? Did you take you multivitamin today?

Are U Ready for a March of Dimes Makeover?

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

Don’t U Dare is a short video about a young woman’s unique journey through self-discovery and positive behavior change. The goal is to heighten awareness about physical fitness, good nutrition, and multivitamin use among women between the ages of 18-24.

Our main character, Bella, is nominated to appear on a reality TV show by her roommate. The show’s host, Danielle, spots our healthy makeover nominee as she sits at her favorite coffee place, gulping down a huge caramel coffee topped with whipped cream. Then Danielle and the March of Dimes crew strike!

Danielle explains to Bella that she’s been busted for practicing some particularly unhealthy habits. Enough is enough and it’s time for a change! Danielle analyzes everything—from Bella’s schedule to her refrigerator— and gives suggestions for getting it together. Not ever realizing that she was making so many mindless decisions in the first place, Bella reluctantly agrees to give it a shot. The journey begins… Click here to watch, Don’t You Dare


Taking folic acid a year before pregnancy can reduce preterm birth.

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

New research suggests that women who take a daily multivitamin containing 400mcg (micrograms) of folic acid for at least one year before they become pregnant can reduce their risk of having a premature baby by half. Click here to read the article, Huge Drop in Preterm Birth-Risk Among Women Taking Folic Acid One Year Before Conception.

Folic acid (synthetic form of a B vitamin) is also important for the development of the fetus’s neural tube, which becomes its brain and spinal cord. A lack of folic acid may result in a severe birth defect called a neural tube defect (NTD). Women who are or may become pregnant are encouraged to take folic acid supplements in addition to eating foods high in folate. Folic acid may also reduce the risk of stroke, colon cancer and breast cancer.

For more information about getting healthy before pregnancy watch the video, Don’t You Dare.