Majority Of Women Of Child-Bearing Age Unaware Folic Acid Should Be Consumed Before Pregnancy
A new March of Dimes survey conducted by the Gallup organization and funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals only 11 percent of women of childbearing age said they knew that folic acid should be consumed prior to pregnancy. Nearly 40 percent of American women of childbearing age (ages 18-45), say they take a daily multivitamin supplement containing folic acid. However, the rate drops to 27 percent among women 18 to 24 years old.
Additionally, a separate March of Dimes survey conducted by International Communications Research and funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reveals only 17 percent of Spanish-speaking women of childbearing age in the United States are taking a multivitamin containing folic acid daily, according to the first- nationally representative folic acid awareness survey to focus on this population.
This January, as part of National Birth Defects Prevention Month, the Grain Foods Foundation has joined with the March of Dimes to remind all women of child-bearing age of the important role folic acid plays in preventing birth defects.
Daily consumption of the B vitamin folic acid beginning before pregnancy is crucial as birth defects of the brain and spine known as neural tube defects (NTDs), such as spina bifida, can occur in the early weeks following conception, often before a woman knows she is pregnant.
"Folic acid is the most important vitamin women can take to help prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine, and it's most important that they start taking it before they get pregnant and continue to take it after," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes.
The March of Dimes urges all women of childbearing age to consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily beginning before pregnancy and continuing into the early months of pregnancy. 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.
"Enriched grains are an easy, inexpensive and delicious way for women to get essential vitamins such as folic acid," noted Judi Adams, MS, RD and president of the Grain Foods Foundation.
In fact, 2008 marked the ten-year anniversary of folic acid fortification to enriched flour. Since the FDA issued the mandate in 1998, neural tube defects (NTDs), including spina bifida, have declined by 26 percent. To commemorate the ten-year anniversary of folic acid fortification to enriched flour, the Grain Foods Foundation and the March of Dimes developed the Folic Acid for a Healthy Pregnancy seal, making it easier for women to identify enriched grain products that have been fortified with folic acid. An English and Spanish-language version of the Folic Acid for a Healthy Pregnancy seal currently appear nationwide on package of select enriched grain products.