Posts Tagged ‘NTD’

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.

 

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.

 

Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects

Monday, January 6th, 2014

January 5-11 is National Folic Acid Awareness Week. Are you getting enough folic acid each day?

Today’s guest post is from the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

Folic acid is a B vitamin. If a woman consumes the recommended amount of folic acid before and during early pregnancy, it can help prevent some major birth defects of the baby’s brain (known as anencephaly) and spine (known as spina bifida). Anencephaly is a serious birth defect in which parts of a baby’s brain and skull do not form correctly. Babies born with anencephaly cannot survive. Spina bifida is a serious birth defect in which a baby’s spine does not develop correctly, and can result in some severe physical disabilities. All women, but especially those who want to become pregnant, need 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.

Do I need folic acid?

Yes! Every woman needs to get enough folic acid each day, even if she does not plan to become pregnant. This is because our bodies make new cells every day—blood, skin, hair, nails and others. Folic acid is needed to make these new cells. Start a healthy habit today and get 400 mcg of folic acid every day.

Why can’t I wait until I’m pregnant to start taking folic acid?

Birth defects of the brain and spine (anencephaly and spina bifida) happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman finds out she’s pregnant. Also, half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. These are two reasons why it is important for all women who can get pregnant to be sure to get 400 mcg of folic acid every day, even if they aren’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. Starting today is the best option!

How do I get folic acid?

An easy way to be sure you’re getting enough folic acid is to take a daily multivitamin with folic acid in it. Most multivitamins have all the folic acid you need. If you get an upset stomach from taking a multivitamin, try taking it with meals or just before bed. If you have trouble taking pills, you can try a multivitamin that is gummy or chewable. Also be sure to take it with a full glass of water.

Folic acid has been added to foods such as enriched breads, pastas, rice and cereals. Check the Nutrition Facts label on the food packaging. A serving of some cereals has 100% of the folic acid that you need each day.

In addition to getting 400 mcg of folic acid from supplements and fortified foods, you can eat a diet rich in folate. You can get food folate from beans, peas and lentils, oranges and orange juice, asparagus and broccoli, and dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach, and mustard greens.
For More Information
CDC’s Folic Acid Homepage
Birth Defects COUNT
Spina Bifida Overview

Folic acid helps prevent birth defects

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Anifa is an 18-month-old girl who was born with spina bifida, a serious birth defect of the spine. Like many children with spina bifida, Anifa is paralyzed and has no bowel or bladder control. She lives with her family in a village in Nigeria where there is no primary health center to help her. As a result, Anifa could not have surgery to close the opening in her spine until she was nine months old. During this time, her spinal cord was exposed and without protection. In the U.S., the first surgery for a baby born with spina bifida usually takes place within the first 24 hours of life to avoid complications or death. But Anifa had no choice but to wait.

In the United States, children born with spina bifida often live long and productive lives, even though they face many challenges. In many other countries, however, the outlook for children like Anifa is not as positive.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first began researching folic acid’s role in preventing birth defects in the early 1980s. Early studies found the risk for having a baby with a neural tube defect (NTD), such as spina bifida, was reduced if the mother had taken folic acid before and during early pregnancy. As a result, U.S. Public Health Service released the 1992 recommendation that all women who could become pregnant should get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.

Women can get folic acid in three ways: diet, vitamin supplements, and flour fortification. Experts agreed that getting 400 mcg of folic acid from naturally-occurring food sources alone was impractical—women would have to eat a lot of folate-rich foods which are expensive and not readily available in many communities.

In January 1998, in response to requests from the CDC and its collaborators, including the March of Dimes, the FDA mandated fortification of cereal grain products labeled as enriched in the United States. “At that point, we had what we thought was the best possible coverage of women of child-bearing age to get folic acid for the prevention of neural tube defects,” says former CDC scientist Joe Mulinare. With a 36 percent reduction in the rates of neural tube defects by the end of 2006, folic acid fortification was recently named one of the Ten Great Public Health Achievements in the United States.

Folic Acid Awareness Week is January 6-12th, 2013. We are honored to have this guest post from the CDC. Author: Christina Kilgo, MA, Health Communication Specialist and SciMetrika contractor for CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

Fortification of corn masa

Friday, April 20th, 2012

corn-masaDid you know that Hispanic women are about 20 percent more likely to have a child with a neural tube defect (NTD), which includes spina bifida and anencephaly, than non-Hispanic white women?  Although the reasons for the disparity are not well understood, Hispanic women have been found to have lower intake of the B vitamin folic acid overall compared to non-Hispanic white women.

Serious birth defects of the brain and spine in America’s babies, particularly those of Hispanic origin, could be reduced if the nation’s corn masa flour products were fortified with folic acid, according to a new petition filed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by a coalition of six organizations:
• Gruma Corporation
• Spina Bifida Association
• March of Dimes Foundation
• American Academy of Pediatrics
• Royal DSM N.V.
• National Council of La Raza

Fortification of enriched cereal grains such as bread and pasta with folic acid was mandated by the FDA in 1998. Corn masa flour, however, lacks federal regulatory approval for the addition of folic acid. The rate of NTDs in the U.S. has decreased by nearly one-third since fortification. Despite this success, about 3,000 pregnancies in the U.S. still are affected by NTDs annually and Hispanics have the highest rate when compared to other race or ethnic groups.

Corn masa flour is made from specially treated corn and is used to make products common in Latin American diets such as corn tortillas and tamales. The petitioners believe that by targeting traditional Hispanic food made with corn masa for folic acid fortification, it would be possible to lower the rate of NTDs among Hispanics, particularly Mexican-Americans. Studies have shown that folic acid works if taken before conception and during early pregnancy. Many countries in Latin America already allow fortification of corn masa products with folic acid, including Costa Rica, El Salvador and Mexico.

The FDA accepted the petition on April 17. The petition now will be reviewed by the agency, which is not required to follow a prescribed timetable on the approval process. “Adding folic acid to corn masa flour can successfully decrease neural tube defects in the Hispanic community,” said Dr. Jennifer Howse, President of the March of Dimes.  “This is a safe and effective way to address the disparities we see in the Hispanic community and will give even more babies a healthy start in life. I’d like to thank our fellow petitioners for their leadership on this important health issue. We look forward to the FDA’s determination on our petition.”

We’ll keep you posted on their response.

Free folic acid

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Kmart Pharmacy is committed to helping educate women about healthy pregnancies. As part of their efforts this year, Kmart pharmacies across the U.S. will provide one free month of folic acid to expectant mothers.

Folic acid is a B vitamin that can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord called neural tube defects (NTDs). Folic acid works to prevent these birth defects only if taken before conception and during early pregnancy. Folate is the natural form of folic acid that is found in many foods.

Because NTDs originate in the first month of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant, it is important for a woman to have enough folic acid in her system before conception. Studies show that if all women consumed the recommended 400 micrograms of folic acid before and during early pregnancy, up to 70 percent of all NTDs could be prevented.

Once you’re pregnant, you should increase your folic acid intake to at least 600 micrograms of folic acid. Your prenatal vitamin should have the right amount of folic acid you’ll need during pregnancy.

Most women should limit the amount of folic acid they take to 1,000 micrograms a day unless otherwise directed by a health provider. For example, women who have had a previous pregnancy affected by birth defects of the brain and spine and women with sickle cell disease should be sure to talk with their health providers about the need for more folic acid.

Folic acid is recommended for all women of childbearing age because about half of all pregnancies in this country are unplanned.  Kmart is stepping up to the plate to help.  From March 28 through May 1, customers can obtain folic acid when they fill their prescription at their local Kmart. Additionally, over-the-counter folic acid is available as part of this promotion. Limited quantities per store are available.

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!