“Dramatically reduce your risk of having a baby with a neural tube birth defect like spina bifida by taking a daily multi-vitamin with folic acid prior to conception and during pregnancy.”
This is the vital message that the Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus Association of Ontario (SB&H) wants all women of childbearing age to hear. Spina bifida is a neural tube birth defect (NTD) that occurs within the first four weeks of pregnancy – before most women know they are pregnant. The spinal column fails to develop properly, resulting in permanent damage to the baby's spinal cord and nervous system. Spina bifida is the most common permanently disabling birth defect in Canada affecting one in every 1,300 babies.
“The solution to dramatically reducing this high rate of incidence is relatively simple,” states Joan Booth, Executive Director, SB&H. “Taking just 0.4 mg of folic acid daily in a multivitamin, prior to conception and during pregnancy, can reduce the risk of NTDs like spina bifida by as much as 70%.”
Unfortunately, while most women have heard of folic acid, only 38% understand that folic acid must be taken before conception to help reduce the risk of NTDs, according to a recent Health Canada survey. In addition, more than half of women in Ontario between the ages of 18 and 40 do not take a daily multivitamin whether they are planning to get pregnant or not. “With so many unplanned pregnancies,” Booth says, “It should be part of a woman’s daily routine, like brushing her teeth.
”SB&H is working to get the word out through their EVERY HEALTHY BABY IS A VICTORY education campaign and a new website dedicated to this program. While the primary target of this campaign is women of childbearing age, special attention is given to women with compromised health conditions, and those at greater risk due to insulin dependent diabetes, obesity, epilepsy, prior affected pregnancies and a family history of NTDs.
Folicacid.ca provides information about sources of folic acid from food and supplements, how much is required, when it should be taken and who should take it, as well as a separate section for healthcare professionals. The site includes articles of interest and a discussion area where women can share experiences and post questions. Women requiring more information can also call a toll-free help line: 800-387-1575.
Nature’s Bounty has taken a lead role as the gold sponsor of the folicacid.ca website. “Ensuring that women get the most up-to-date information and products to help in the prevention of neural tube birth defects like spina bifida is a key goal of Nature’s Bounty,” says Julie-Anne McCallum, Brand Manager, Nature’s Bounty. “We’re proud to be a sponsor to help launch this very important campaign.” SB&H is pleased to announce that Burnbrae Farms is also supporting the website to encourage healthy eating of foods enriched with folate.