Our number one goal is to raise awareness in Arkansas about the importance of folic acid for all women, but especially those of child-bearing age planning on becoming pregnant.
We’re not the only ones who believe in the importance of vitamin B9 and what it can do for both mothers and their unborn children. We reached out to physicians and OB/GYNs across the state to find out what they think about folic acid.
When folic acid is most important, is during the first trimester when the risk of a child developing a neural tube defect (NTD) is at its highest.
"Folic acid supplementation at the time of conception and during the first few weeks of pregnancy helps to prevent open spine defects like Spina Bifida. If taken prior to pregnancy, it can help to prevent morning sickness. So, anyone who is trying to conceive, or not trying to prevent it, should take 800 mcg of folic acid daily. The recommended dose is higher if someone is on certain anti-seizure medications.”
– Karen Jones, M.D., FACOG, OB/GYN at Unity Health Harris Medical Center
For Dr. William Greenfield, the Arkansas Department of Health Medical Director for Family Health, the value of folic acid begins before conception.
“Folic acid is important not only during pregnancy, but also before pregnancy occurs. We must keep in mind that folic acid makes prevention of neural tube defects possible. This is a big contrast to many other congenital disorders, where we have little to offer in the way of primary prevention.” – William Greenfield, M.D.
Folic acid has been found to reduce the risk of a child developing an NTD while in the womb by as much as 75%. Dr. Kris Citty, an OB/GYN at Unity Health in Searcy, Arkansas, emphasized the devastating effects an NTD can have on both the child and the parents.
“The diagnosis of a neural tube defect is a devastating one to any couple who has conceived, and often times is lethal to the child. All women of childbearing age, regardless of current contraceptive or sterilization status, should fortify themselves with the folic acid supplement as a precaution against this.” – Kris Citty, M.D.
The impact of folic acid can’t be overstated, which is why theU.S. Food and Drug Administration began fortifying grain products like cereals, breads, and pastas with 140 mcg of folic acid in 1998. This fortification, and efforts to raise awareness of the benefits of the vitamin, have made a real impact on the number of NTDs both in Arkansas and nationwide.
“We saw a precipitous drop in neural tube defects in the 1990s that has been maintained essentially below 20%, with a trend even lower since 2013, that easily is linked to folic acid awareness!”– Elizabeth Sellars, M.D., University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
The efforts to raise awareness about the importance of folic acid is working, but we still have a long way to go. Arkansas remains one of the U.S. leaders in NTDs and has one of the highest birth defect related death rates in the county.
Do your part. Talk to your physician about folic acid, its benefits, and if it's right for you.