January: Birth Defects Prevention Month

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Christeena Haynes, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Dallas County, University of Missouri Extension

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3,000 pregnancies in the U.S. are affected by neural tube defects every year. Neural tube defects are birth defects that impact the brain and spinal cord; the most common are spina bifida and anencephaly. With spina bifida, the spine does not close fully, usually resulting in nerve damage and paralysis of the legs. With anencephaly, the brain and skull do not form correctly, and babies with this condition do not survive. Not all birth defects can be prevented, but the risk of neural tube defects can be significantly reduced by consuming folic acid.

So what is folic acid? Folic acid is a B vitamin that the body needs to make new cells. Everyone needs it, but because folic acid has such a crucial role in the prevention of neural tube defects, it is recommended that every woman who is able to become pregnant consume 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid each day. Folic acid can be found in…

For the sources of folic acid and when you need to start taking it, read the full version of this article at http://missourifamilies.org/features/healtharticles/health125.htm

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