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Folic Acid Offers Even More Protection

June 15, 2009, 6:10 PM by Kelli Grant

Folic Acid Offers Even More Protection
Have you taken your multi-vitamin today? One you've most likely heard of may offer more protection than you think.

It's affordable, you take it once a day and it can prevent serious birth defects.  Folic acid is now being recommended more than ever before.

Sara Wolthuizen is expecting for the first time and due in October. But she started planning long before conceiving her bundle of joy.

Six months before she found out she was pregnant, she started taking a pre-natal vitamin pumped full of folic acid.

“You can prevent over half of spina bifida.  About 70 percent of the time can completely prevent it by taking folic acid," Dr. Laura Davis-Keppen with Sanford Children's Specialty Clinic said.

There's also evidence it prevents heart defects and premature birth.

“The birth defect that we know the most about is spina bifida or nuero tube defects and those occur before the third week of pregnancy, so this is before someone really may even realize that they are pregnant. That's why it's recommended for any woman that could become pregnant to take folic acid," Keppen said.

“It’s amazing in the first three weeks all the stuff that happens. So that's important to have the vitamin before you even want to get pregnant,” Wolthuizen said.

Some pregnancy specialists believe folic acid is so important, they're urging the government to boost the amount being added to certain foods to help ensure expecting moms get enough.

“You may get folic acid from things such as enriched cereals, whole wheat, dried beans, dark green leafy vegetables but you have to work at it,” Keppen said.

Still, taking the supplement early is key because some pregnancies can come as a surprise.

“People do not always plan their pregnancies. It's good for your health. Taking a multi vitamin is good for your health anyway, but when you've got someone else's life at stake, why wouldn't you want to do this?” Keppen said.

Learn more about folic acid from the March of Dimes.

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