Taking a daily multivitamin can save babies lives by preventing birth defects.   Folic acid is a B vitamin can prevent up to 70% of neural tube defects (including spina bifida and anencephaly).   An average of 52 babies are born with neural tube defects in Arizona each year. 

The easiest way for women of childbearing age to get the needed 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid each day is to take a multivitamin with folic acid.  While folic acid is found in foods like green, leafy vegetables, beans, and cereals, many people don’t eat enough of those foods to get all the folic acid needed to protect against birth defects.  It’s especially important that all women of childbearing-age take folic acid before getting pregnant.  Neural tube defects occur very early on in pregnancy, often before a woman is even knows she’s pregnant.  Given that about half of pregnancies are unplanned, taking a multivitamin with folic acid is an easy solution to reducing the risk of birth defects. 

This is National Folic Acid Awareness Week and it’s a great time to share the message about the importance of folic acid in preventing birth defects.  For educational materials and a Fact Sheet about spina bifida, please contact Tim Flood, MD at the ADHS, Arizona Birth Defects Monitoring Program.  You can also find more information about folic acid on our ADHS Folic Acid Education Program site.   

Next month we’ll be launching a new initiative to get more young women to take multivitamins with folic acid. Watch for lots of new and exciting ways to encourage young women to take their multivitamin with folic acid every day.