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Prevention and Folic Acid -- SHNIC Educators Information

Recent studies have shown that the risk of having a child with spina bifida, or other neural tube defects, can be reduced by at least 50 percent by increasing a woman’s daily intake of folic acid. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that all women of childbearing age take 0.4 mg of folic acid every day. This is 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance. It is especially important that this dose be taken prior to becoming pregnant and during the first trimester of pregnancy. If a woman has already had one child with spina bifida, her risk of having another child with spina bifida, or other neural tube defects, can decrease by as much as 70 percent if she takes 0.4 mg of folic acid daily.

Folic acid is a B vitamin and is found in dark, leafy green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, whole grains, egg yolks, citrus fruits and juices, most berries and legumes such as dried beans and soy beans. Many foods have been fortified with folic acid. These include some breakfast cereals, rice, breads, pastas and foods made with enriched flour or cornmeal. Since the average American diet does not supply the recommended level of folic acid, it is suggested that an over-the-counter multivitamin supplement containing folic acid be taken.

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