As a mom of a child with Spina Bifida there are a lot of things I wish I knew. Like I wish I knew I was going to have such a sweet little GoGo (that’s the name for her wheelchair) user before I bought a house with 15 stairs straight up. I wish I knew that it was ok to say no or let’s wait and see, to doctors about this or that surgery. I wish I knew that having a child with a disability would change me and shape my life’s purpose. I wish I knew how important prenatal vitamins and especially Folic acid was for the development of a baby in the first 4 weeks of pregnancy. It is folic acid awareness week in January and many women just like me still don’t understand the importance of folic acid in the prevention of birth defects.
Folic acid is the synthetic form of a naturally occurring B vitamin called folate. Since 1998 it has been required that folic acid be added to all fortified breads, cereals, rice, pastas, and other grain products. There are many benefits of folic acid, and many are not just for pregnant women. Before pregnancy, folate is shown to improve fertility in both men and women. Pregnant women are encouraged to get more folic acid in their diet to decrease the risk of certain birth defects. Getting enough folic acid before pregnancy and early on in pregnancy reduces the risk of neural tube defects, the most common type of defects due to folate insufficiency. Neural tube defects are severe defects in the brain and spinal cord, some of which are fatal. Getting enough folic acid in your diet early in pregnancy is also shown to decrease the risk of congenital heart defects, cleft lip, limb defects and even urinary tract defects. It has also been shown to decrease the risk of miscarriage, placental abruption, preterm delivery, low birth weight, and fetal growth restriction. Having enough folate in your diet or by supplementation can even help reduce your risk of developing preeclampsia. (Quoted from Mom RN)
It is recommended that women get at least 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid per day, even before pregnancy.
Even women who are not trying to get pregnant (that was me) should take supplemental folic acid in case of an unplanned pregnancy.
There are many ways to get more folic acid through supplements or increasing certain foods. Womens Health is a great women’s health site with more information and tips!
I want to be sure other women do know that folic acid can reduce the risk of neural tube defects like Spina Bifida. There is no definitive answer why my sweet girl Mara was born with Spina Bifida. I have processed and let go of the “I could have… and the “I should haves” as guilt does not help me or her. We have the life we have and it is good and full and wonderful and her condition may have had nothing to do with folic acid. But, If I can reach one woman to lower the risk that she would have to endure watching her child go through multiple high–risk surgeries and sleepless nights then this is worth every word.
Folic Acid Awareness Week was in January. but these materials are always available! Make sure you look into free materials and resources that you can use for your self and loved ones.