Folic Acid Can Prevent Birth Defects
The conception, bringing a child into the world is an important step in any couple. Although this decision affects equally both the male and female partner, the woman will go through multiple physiological changes during pregnancy. Risks to born a fetus with a particular medical condition are high, so the mother must make some changes in her lifestyle both before becoming pregnant, and during pregnancy.
These lifestyle changes can be classified in two categories: the elimination of certain risk factors for the child (quitting smoking and alcohol for example), and the introduction of certain elements in the diet to ensure proper development of the fetus (for example, that folic acid or vitamin B9). In terms of a correct diet before and during pregnancy, taking folic acid is one of the most important steps that a woman can do.
You must remember that some babies may come into the world with birth defects. One such condition is the neural canal defect, which occurs after 28 days from conception and affects the brain and spinal cord of the fetus. Neural canal defect can occur in two ways:
- Spina bifida: a malformation which is characterized by the absence, in the lower back and sacral region, of the posterior vertebral arches.
- Anencephaly: a malformation which is characterized by the absence of the flat bones of the skull, which causes the brain to be exposed, and even poorly developed. If the pregnancy is carried to the end, usually the child will not live more than a few days.
According to American researchers, about 1.500 pregnancies are ended prematurely due to medical complications associated with neural canal defect. Between 2.500 and 3.000 newborns are affected by this condition, but the pregnancie is carried to the end. Because it is a very serious medical condition, these children will not have a normal life. Those suffering from anencephaly die within days after birth, as we predicted above, and those with spina bifida will suffer from paralysis and other disabilities. Is estimated that 200 million dollars are spent annually to treat people suffering from spina bifida surgery (these estimations include only surgical costs, not costs associated with daily care of these people).
What causes that appearance of anencephaly or of spina bifida? To find the answer to this question, we turn to U.S. researchers. It seems that the neural canal defect shows up mainly in pregnant women who are taking treatment for epilepsy, or pregnant women with folic acid deficiency. For these reason, it was concluded that the introduction of folic acid in the diet, both before and during pregnancy reduces the risk for a newborn to have a defect in the neural canal. In Canada for example, cases of births with neural canal defect decreased by 46% after certain foods have been treated with folic acid.
It is recommended that all women, once they reach the age when they can conceive, to include folic acid in their diet or vitam B9, in a dose of 0.4 mg, daily. Even if you plan to become pregnant soon, you should follow this advice. Why? Simply, because if you not practice safe sex, you can get pregnant without your knowledge, and because neural canal defect occurs in an early stage of pregnancy (at 28 days after conception), you will not have the time to take appropriate measures to fight this condition. It is better to prevent a condition that often lead to fetal death or will lead to a life that will make the future child and adult to faces with health problems.
Folic acid can be obtained from drugs (multivitamin or folic acid supplements) or from daily food (spinach, kale, lettuce, beans, peas, cereals, sunflower seeds, liver, yeast).