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Folic Acid Supplements Prevent Birth Defects

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Twenty-one percent of Hispanic women are consuming enough folic acid to prevent certain birth defects before becoming pregnant, compared with more than 40% of white women, the North Denver News reports. Consuming adequate amounts of the dietary supplement before becoming pregnant can help prevent neural tube birth defects -- serious defects of the spine and brain. According to the News, roughly 3,000 infants are born with neural tube birth defects annually.

The effects of the conditions occur within the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman is aware that she is pregnant.

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Alina Flores, a health education specialist at CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said, "It is crucial for every woman, but especially for Hispanics, to take folic acid every day even before getting pregnant, so that we can continue to decrease the number of children born with neural tube defects." Hispanic women have a 30% to 40% increased risk for having children with neural tube birth defects.

Folic acid has been found to prevent up to 70% of such birth defects and can easily be consumed by taking daily supplements. Flores said, "Many Hispanic women believe that vitamins with folic acid are just for pregnant women, that they make you gain weight, that they are very costly or that you need a prescription." She added, "None of these myths is true" (North Denver News, 1/7).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.