Folic acid is the best prevention against the neural tube defect which affects between 2 and 4 babies out of 1000. Some explanations.
Women of childbearing age can prevent spina bifida, a neural tube defect, by 70% by taking an adequate dose of folic acid at least three months before pregnancy.
Research has shown that consuming multivitamins containing folic acid can help pregnant women reduce their baby's risk of developing spina bifida. The intake of folic acid, vitamin B12, iron and zinc should be more significant in early pregnancy and even before becoming pregnant. In general, vitamin and mineral deficiencies can have a negative effect on the he alth of the expectant mother and that of her baby.
What is a birth defect?
The risk of encountering certain genetic problems increases with the age of the mother, due to the abnormal division of the chromosomes. Currently, birth defects are the leading cause of death in infants under the age of one.
There are two main types of chromosomal abnormalities: structural abnormalities andfunctional abnormalities. Structural birth defects are related to defects in a part of the body. On the other hand, functional birth defects are due to a problem with the functioning of a part of the body or a system.
Cleft lip and cleft palate, as well as missing or malformed heart valves and deformed limbs such as clubfoot are some of the structural abnormalities. These abnormalities also include neural tube defects - such as spina bifida - which are linked to the growth and development of the brain and spinal cord.
Who is at risk of having a baby with NTD?
Any woman who could become pregnant is at risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect. You may be at higher risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect (NTD) if:
- you have ever had an NTD-affected pregnancy;
- you (or your partner) have a personal or family history of NTDs;
- you have insulin-dependent diabetes;
- you are taking certain anti-epileptic drugs;
- you have been diagnosed with obesity;
- you are not eating enough vegetables and fortified flour foods containing folic acid.
What is folic acid?
Folic acid, also called folate or folacin when found naturally in food, is a B vitamin essential for the he althy development of thebaby's spine, brain and skull during the first weeks of pregnancy. Folic acid has been shown to help reduce the risk of NTDs by 70% if taken in sufficient amounts before pregnancy, and may reduce the risk of other birth defects, including cleft palate and heart defects.
Why take folic acid before getting pregnant?
Neural tube defects occur 25-29 days after the onset of pregnancy. During this period, many women do not even know that they are pregnant and it is precisely because these defects appear so early that you should start taking vitamins containing folic acid before becoming pregnant. Start taking folic acid as soon as you stop using birth control.
Women need more folic acid during pregnancy and breastfeeding than normal. You should therefore continue to take folic acid throughout your pregnancy. The dose of folic acid needed may depend on your medical history and the stage of your pregnancy; talk to a he althcare professional.
How much folic acid should I take and when?
To help reduce the risk of NTDs, women who are not at particular risk and who are planning a pregnancy need a good diet, consuming foods rich infolate and take a daily multivitamin containing between 0.4 and 1.0 mg of folic acid for at least two to three months before conception, throughout pregnancy, and during the postpartum period (four to six weeks after childbirth and as long as breastfeeding continues).
High-risk women, including those who have had a child with a neural tube defect in the past, should start taking a multivitamin containing 4-5 mg of folic acid daily for at least three months before conception and up to 10 to 12 weeks after conception. They should also eat foods rich in folic acid.
From 12 weeks after conception, throughout pregnancy, and for four to six weeks after the baby is born (or as long as breastfeeding continues), they should be supplemented with a multivitamin containing between 0.4 and 1.0 mg of folic acid.
Women taking multivitamins containing folic acid should not take more than one dose per day as directed.
Can I get enough folic acid from food?
The best way to get the recommended daily allowance of folic acid is to take a daily multivitamin containing a minimum of 0.4 mg of folic acid. However, taking a multivitamin does not reduce or replace the need to eat he althy, balanced meals based on Eating Well with the Food Guide. Canadian.
The information in this article comes in part from the Pregnancy site of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, from the Spina Bifida Association and Hydrocephalus Ontario (SB&H) and the He alth and Pregnancy website, which is sponsored, like this article, by Duchesnay.