Wayne Johnson was stillborn in August 1955, diagnosed with a severe case of hydrocephalus. His mother Evelyn mourned the loss of her baby for many years. Thirty-two years later, Evelyn’s granddaughter Holly was born with spina bifida and, after serious complications, passed away. The family was devastated.
At the time, very little information about these conditions was available. Eventually, a genetic counselor advised Evelyn to inform her other children about the benefits of folic acid, a B vitamin that has been proven to reduce the incidence of spina bifida by up to 70% when taken 30 days prior to conception and during the first trimester.
Unfortunately for Evelyn and her family, the resources of the Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus Association of Ontario (SB&H) weren’t available to them when they were in need. SB&H became a registered charity in 1973, and one of our objectives was and is to focus on the prevention of these debilitating conditions.
SB&H conducts ongoing and various awareness campaigns to inform women of childbearing age about the importance of folic acid. We also spread the message using this website, the SB&H website, social networking sites, brochure and other support material distribution, public outreach, partnership efforts with like-minded health-related agencies and health professionals, and more.
Our continuing public awareness message has already had an impact. The incidence of spina bifida has dropped dramatically – more healthy babies are being born. Yet while we’ve made great strides, it seems our work has just begun.
Some research indicates if higher levels of folic acid are taken, it’s possible to reduce the risk of spina bifida by as much as 90%. In addition, growing research shows adequate levels of folic acid can also reduce the number of babies born with hydrocephalus and may reduce the risk of cleft palate and certain heart abnormalities.
Had Evelyn only known, things may have been different for her son Wayne. Had Evelyn’s daughter only known, things may have been different for Evelyn’s granddaughter Holly.
Taking a supplement containing 0.04 mg of folic acid each day is important for all women of childbearing age. Whether you’re one of those women, a health professional or someone else reading this message, please help us to educate others so we can collectively reduce the risks. After all, “Every Healthy Baby is a Victory.”