January is Birth Defects Prevention Month and National Folic Acid Awareness Week
The March of Dimes is encouraging women who are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, to make a New Year’s resolution to be as healthy as they can, including taking a daily multivitamin containing folic acid every day to prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine.
“A mom’s health during pregnancy has a direct impact on her baby’s health,” said Dr. Siobhan Dolan, a medical advisor to the March of Dimes and co-author of the non-profit’s book Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby: The Ultimate Pregnancy Guide. “There are many things a woman can do to help give her baby the best opportunity to be born healthy.”
Birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States each year, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
January is Birth Defects Prevention Month, and the week of Jan 5th through 12th is set aside for Folic Acid Awareness Week. Folic acid is a B vitamin proven to prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine known as neural tube defects (NTDs), such as spina bifida and anencephaly.
About half of pregnancies are unplanned. The March of Dimes urges all women of childbearing age to take a multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid every day prior to conceiving and 600 to 800 micrograms after becoming pregnant. It’s also good to eat foods that contain folate, the natural form of folic acid, including lentils, green leafy vegetables, black beans, and orange juice. In addition, there also are some foods fortified with folic acid, such as enriched grain products (bread, pasta, and cereals).
Besides taking a daily multivitamin containing folic acid, here are other resolutions for women who may become pregnant:
- Don’t smoke and avoid second hand smoke. Smoking increases the risk of premature birth and the risk of oral clefts.
- Don’t use alcohol or illegal drugs. They can cause lifelong health problems for the baby, including fetal alcohol syndrome.
- Check with your doctor before taking any medication, including herbal products, prescription pain medications, and statins. Some studies have found that women who took some prescriptions pain medications had a higher risk of having a baby with a heart defect, spina bifida, or gastroschisis, a hole in the abdominal wall.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being very overweight or underweight can increase the risk of prematurity and birth defects.
- Be Food Smart. Avoid fish high in mercury or lead, raw and undercooked meat and unpasteurized juice and dairy products and reduce caffeine.
“The New Year will be full of surprises. So even if you’re not pregnant, but want children in the future, resolve to help give them a healthy start in life,” said Dr. Dolan.
The March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. For more than 75 years, moms and babies have benefited from March of Dimes research, education, vaccines, and breakthroughs. Find out how you can help raise funds to prevent premature birth and birth defects by walking in March for Babies at marchforbabies.org. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.org or nacersano.org. Find us on Facebook and Twitter.
SOURCE March of Dimes