Folic acid vital for health pregnancy and preventing some cancers

During National Folic Acid Awareness week, Jan. 8–Jan. 14, RMH reminds women of the importance of taking vitamins containing folic acid before, during and after pregnancy.

Studies have shown that women who take an over-the-counter multivitamin containing folic acid can decrease the chance of birth defects by as much as 70 percent.

“It’s really important to take folic acid even before you get pregnant,” said Dr. Catherine Slusher of Harrisonburg OB/GYN Associates. “Once you are four weeks along in your pregnancy, and just found out you are pregnant, the folic acid has already had its impact. It’s important to have a good storehouse on board.”

Folic acid is a B-vitamin found in cereals, leafy green vegetables and citrus that helps the body make new cells. Children and adults both require folic acid to produce healthy red blood cells and prevent anemia.

International health organizations widely urge that hopeful mothers-to-be get the recommended daily dose of folic acid (400 mcg) at least one month prior to conception.

Folic acid supplementation has been shown to decrease the chance a baby will develop birth defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Spina bifida is a condition that occurs when a baby’s spinal column does not close to protect nerves. Anencephaly is when part of a baby’s brain does not form in the womb.

Folic acid has been linked to additional health benefits for women who aren’t pregnant, as well as men.

“It’s an excellent supplement for pregnant women that helps prevent neural tube defects,” Dr. Slusher said. “It’s also important for the general population because folic acid may help prevent colon cancer.”

The recommend dose of folic acid is found in most over-the-counter multivitamins available at any pharmacy or grocery store. Talk with your doctor to find out which vitamins are best for you and your lifestyle.


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