County Health Department reminds women of the benefits of folic acid
Friday, Jan. 4 — Cheryl Damm, the maternal, child and adolescent health director for Lassen County, reminds local women January is Birth Defects Prevention Month, and Jan. 6 through 12 is Folic Acid Awareness Week.
She said the Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health (MCAH) Program in Lassen County wants all women of childbearing age to remember the importance of taking folic acid daily. Folic acid is an essential B-vitamin that is necessary for proper cell growth and repair of every cell in your body.
Folic Acid also plays a vital role in red blood cell formation and metabolic reactions involving fats and proteins. It is especially important that women take folic acid prior to pregnancy, during pregnancy and while they are breastfeeding. If taken before and during early pregnancy either in the form of a multi-vitamin or fortified foods, folic acid can prevent 50 to 70 percent of some forms of serious birth defects of the spine and brain. The birth defects folic acid can prevent are neural tube defects, like Spina Bifida and Anencephaly. These defects can cause a child to be paralyzed or even cause death. Folic acid also helps prevent birth defects of the mouth and lips like cleft lip and palate and some heart defects.
Women should take folic acid even if they have no immediate plans of becoming pregnant as part of their preconception health regimen. This is because many women don’t find out they are pregnant until they are well into their first trimester of pregnancy. During early pregnancy rapid maternal and fetal cell and tissue growth occurs, so the need for folic acid/folate increases. For this reason it is important for women aged 15-44 to take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
Folic acid is found in many foods, but it is hard to get adequate amounts in your daily diet. That is why it is better to take a multi-vitamin every day. Most multi-vitamins sold in the United States have the correct amount of folic acid that women need each day- 400 mcg. Fortified foods like grains, pastas or breakfast cereals are another good source of folic acid. It is important to read the label on the side of the box to ensure that it contains enough folic acid; it should say 100 percent next to folic acid for daily value.
Other foods rich in folic acid/folate are legumes (black beans or pinto beans), dark green leafy vegetables (spinach or broccoli), citrus fruits and juice, nuts and sunflower seeds and meats and eggs. Equally important, women should always try to eat a variety of healthy foods with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables in their diet.
If you have a family member or friend who is of child bearing age or is trying to have a baby please share this important information with them. If you would like more information on folic acid or other important women’s health topics, call the MCAH Program at Lassen County Public Health Department at 251-8183 or visit the website at everywomancalifornia.org.
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