News & Media

April 09, 2016

A well-balanced diet during pregnancy can help ensure both your health and your baby’s. Your risk of developing chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity can be significantly reduced with the help of a proper diet during pregnancy.

It goes without saying that this period brings significant physiological changes. Paying special attention to your lifestyle habits, taking a prenatal supplement that is adapted to your personal needs as well as your diet during pregnancy can help to meet your new energy and nutrient needs.

General dietary requirements for a healthy pregnancy

There are special requirements when it comes to your diet during pregnancy; balance, variety and moderation before, during and after pregnancy are part of general good health. Canada’s Food Guide suggests that consuming a variety of items from the four major food groups will help you get the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you and your baby need. A well-balanced diet during pregnancy will also contribute to your baby's healthy growth and development, along with helping you feel better, give you more energy and help you gain a healthy amount of weight. The Guide even offers meal suggestions for expecting mothers and their families.

Pay special attention to the quality of the foods in your diet during pregnancy. Being careful and following a few basic food safety rules will help you avoid food poisoning and protect your baby.

Don’t Forget Your Prenatal Multivitamins

A proper diet during pregnancy may not be enough; experts recommend that you take a daily multivitamin as well.

Wondering if a prenatal multivitamin is right for you? This is an important decision, so take the time to make an informed choice. You should know that you will have an increased need for vitamins and essential minerals, especially folic acid and iron.

Based on your overall health, your health professional can give you advice on the prenatal multivitamin that's best for you.

Role of Vitamins and Minerals during Pregnancy

Vitamins and minerals are essential not only to the development of your unborn child, but also to your own health. Your baby will draw on your resources, which you need to replenish to stay healthy, move through the stages of your pregnancy and prepare for childbirth.

Whether you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, it is important to pay particular attention to your intake of essential vitamins and minerals, especially folic acid, calcium and iron, for your baby’s general development and your own continued good health during your pregnancy.

For this reason expectant mothers are generally advised to eat a properly balanced, healthy diet and ask their health professional for advice on the prenatal supplement best suited to them.

Other Nutrients

In addition to folic acid, iron, calcium and zinc, many other vitamins and minerals are important for your health and for the development of your child. Many of these vitamins and minerals are found in a well-balanced diet but sometimes you might need to take additional essential vitamins and minerals according to your food habits, your medical history or in case of gestational diabetes (GDM).

Your healthcare professional will assess your nutritional needs and recommend supplementation that will help you to avoid any vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

Dealing with Nausea and vomiting?

Are you dealing with nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NVP)? See your health professional if your NVP symptoms are affecting your well-being, quality of life or daily activities. Don't wait until NVP prevents you from eating or taking your prenatal multivitamins. If you act quickly to control your symptoms, you may be able to prevent them from continuing or getting worse.

As you may know, a well-balanced diet during pregnancy plays a significant role in maintaining your health and that of your baby. Your diet during pregnancy should include foods based on the principles of balance, variety and moderation. When continued after giving birth, these new habits can have lifelong benefits for both mother and child as well as for the entire family.

References from the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada :

Article provided by our partner Duchesnay based on content developed for the Health and Pregnancy website and reviewed by Mireille Moreau, dietician*. Health and Pregnancy is sponsored by Duchesnay Inc., a unique Canadian pharmaceutical company dedicated to pregnancy and women's health, especially to women's quality of life and health during pregnancy and breastfeeding and safeguarding the health of expecting women and their unborn babies.

*Ms. Moreau is a paid consultant for Duchesnay, Inc.

April 09, 2016

We are pleased to welcome Duchesnay as a new SB&H partner. This partnership is designed to help us continue spreading the word about the importance of women taking folic acid to dramatically reduce the risk of spina bifida and other neural tube defects (NTD). Duchesnay provides educational material, like this Nutrition in Pregnancy video. All women who could become pregnant need to take a daily multivitamin containing 0.4 mg of folic acid to reduce the risk of NTDs by up to 70%.

June 12, 2015

The Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus Association of Ontario has made our Folic Acid information brochure available for download. Simply click on the picture of the brochure below to download a PDF version suitable for printing or just reading on your computer or tablet screen.






January 07, 2015

Taking folic acid before conception significantly reduces the risk of small for gestational age (SGA) at birth, suggests a new study  published in November 2014 in the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG)...

August 05, 2014
Folic acid is the best prevention against neural tube defects that affect 2 to 4 babies out of 1000. Here’s everything you should know.
June is Spina Bifida Awareness Month in Canada and various associations take this opportunity to inform women of childbearing age that they can prevent this neural tube defect by as much as 70% by taking the right dose of folic acid starting at least three months before pregnancy.

Research shows that women who take vitamins that contain folic acid may lower the risk that their baby will be born with spina bifida. Out of every 1000 babies born in Canada. Read more...


March 24, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—Women who are pregnant or trying to fall pregnant and taking a folic acid supplement may be at risk of reducing their folate benefit through sun exposure, a new Queensland University of Technology study has warned.

In a paper titled "Exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation is associated with decreased folate status in women of childbearing age", published in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B:Biology, QUT researchers found UV exposure significantly depleted folate levels.

Professor Michael Kimlin and Dr David Borradale, from QUT's AusSun Research Lab, said the study of 45 young healthy women in Brisbane aged 18 to 47, showed high rates of sun exposure accounted up to a 20 per cent reduction in folate levels.

"This is concerning as the benefits of folic acid are well-known, with health professionals urging young women to take a folic acid supplement prior to and during pregnancy," Professor Kimlin said.

"Folate has been found to reduce miscarriage and neural tube defects such as spina bifida in unborn babies. The NHMRC recommends pregnant women or those planning a pregnancy take 500 micrograms a day."

Professor Kimlin said the study, which was the first to investigate the effects of sun exposure on folate levels in women of childbearing age, found women who had high levels of sun exposure had folate levels below those recommended for women considering pregnancy.

"The women at risk were those who were outside during the most UV intense time of the day, between 10am and 3pm, with little sun protection," Professor Kimlin said.

"These were the women who had the highest levels of sun exposure and the lowest levels of folate, whilst not deficient in folate, they were on the lower side of normal."

Dr Borradale said in showing the link between UV exposure and folate depletion, further research including a controlled clinical trial was needed.

"We are not telling women to stop taking folate supplements, but rather urging women to talk to their doctor about their folate levels and the importance of folate in their diet, especially those who are planning a pregnancy," Dr Borradale said.

"The results of this study reinforce the need for adequate folate levels prior to and during pregnancy."

What is folate and how can I get it?

Folic acid is a B vitamin that is very important for pregnant women and those planning a baby. Folate is found in foods such as green leafy vegetables like spinach, citrus fruits, legumes, whole grains and vegemite. Folic acid is also added to many foods such as breads, flours and pastas. Folic acid can also be taken as a pill.

December 11, 2013

Groundbreaking research published in the journal Cell (September 2013) suggests that folic acid deficiency may have detrimental health consequences for several generations.1 This underscores the importance of getting enough folic acid, especially for women of childbearing age who could become pregnant.

Working in collaboration, researchers from the Universities of Calgary and Cambridge (UK) discovered that a mutation in a gene needed for folic acid metabolism, led to developmental abnormalities in several generations of mice. While this study looked at genes, researchers believe that folic acid deficiency in the diet could have a similar multi-generational impact on health in humans.

We have known for some time that folic acid deficiency in women of childbearing age can cause severe developmental problems, including spina bifida, heart defects and placental abnormalities, in their immediate offspring. In this animal study, researchers were surprised by the longer term effects they found. They suggest that the great or great-great grandchildren of a parent who has a folic acid deficiency may have developmental disorders and health problems as a result.

Researchers used mice in this study because the way they metabolize folic acid is similar to humans and because mutations in the same genes or folic acid deficiency result in similar developmental problems in mice. Prior to this study, little was known about how folic acid deficiency led to the wide range of health problems associated with it. This new study shed light on the role of folic acid (known as folate in the form that is naturally found in food) during development.

Their study showed that the detrimental health effects of a genetic mutation in one generation may be passed down to future generations through a process known as epigenetics – that turns genes on and off. Abnormalities in future generations may occur as a result of the wrong genes being turned on or off.
While the aim of this study was to understand how a specific genetic mutation would affect folate metabolism, the findings suggest that a lack of folate in the diet may have even more far-reaching consequences than previously recognized.

Health authorities around the globe, including Health Canada have taken steps to fortify certain foods in the food supply with folic acid. In Canada, white flour, enriched pasta, and enriched corn meal are fortified with folic acid. The results of this study indicate that it may take several generations for the full benefits of the folic acid fortification that was implemented in Canada in 1998 to be realized.

The findings also reinforce how important it is for all women who could become pregnant to take a multivitamin containing 0.4 mg of folic acid every day, as recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada. To help reduce the risk of neural tube defects, women should start taking the vitamin supplement at least three months before they get pregnant and continue throughout the first three months of pregnancy. Since some women have different needs, it’s always best to talk to your health care professional to find the supplement that is best for you.

A healthy balanced diet before and throughout pregnancy, with plenty of food sources of folate is also vital to help promote optimal health in both mother and baby. Keep in mind that women of childbearing age who could become pregnant need both food sources and a supplement to meet daily needs for folic acid.

Food sources of folate include vegetables and fruit (especially green and orange), legumes, eggs, nuts, and grain products made with enriched wheat flour. For example, eggs are a good source of folate. Two large eggs (i.e. a Food Guide serving) naturally provide 30% of the Daily Value for folate. Women who could become pregnant are encouraged to eat well with Canada’s Food Guide.

See how your intake of food sources of folate measures up.

Learn more about Folate for good health at every age.

To read more about the research, visit: and

1. Padmanabhan N et al. Mutation in Folate Metabolism Causes Epigenetic Instability and Transgenerational Effects on Development. Cell, 2013; 155 (1): 81-93.


December 01, 2013

A study led by McGill researcher Sarah Kimmins suggests that the father’s diet before conception may play an equally important role in the health of their offspring. It also raises concerns about the long-term effects of current Western diets and of food insecurity.

Here are three links to information on this latest discovery



September 24, 2013

Overall risk of problems like spina bifida called low, but experts advise women to discuss prescription opioid use with doctor. Read more...


August 12, 2013

British experts are testing whether a new supplement taken in early pregnancy could cut the risk of defects including spina bifida.

Women are already urged to take folic acid during the first three months of pregnancy to reduce the chance of a baby suffering neural tube defects. But data suggests folic acid cannot prevent occurrence of all these conditions and some disorders appear to be unresponsive to it.

Now, a team from the research arm of Great Ormond Street Hospital is investigating whether women could take a single daily pill combining the new supplement and folic acid.

One reason why folic acid may not always work is that a genetic "blockage" occurs affecting how it is metabolised in cells. The new supplement includes nucleotides, which are able to bypass this blockage, boosting the effect of folic acid and ensuring the growth of crucial cells.

Tests in mice with the new supplement resulted in an 85% drop in the incidence of neural tube defects. Some conditions that are currently unresponsive to folic acid were also prevented.

Nicholas Greene, professor of developmental neurobiology at the Institute of Child Health (ICH), which is the research partner of Great Ormond Street, said: "We are still in the early stages of this research, but we hope that these promising results in mice can eventually be replicated with human neural tube defects. If it is found to be effective, this nucleotide treatment could boost the effects of folic acid and offer expectant mothers an even more reliable safeguard against relatively common defects like spina bifida."

Neural tube defects affect around one in 1,000 babies in the UK every year and occur if there is a problem with the normal development of the nervous system.

At around 28 days after fertilisation, the developing spinal cord is an open tube but this usually closes. If this process does not occur correctly, spina bifida can result, potentially causing learning difficulties, disability or even an exposed spinal cord.

The Department of Health recommends women take a daily supplement of 400 micrograms of folic acid (also known as vitamin B9) while trying to conceive and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Prof Greene said that, for now, women should continue to take folic acid supplements.

The study, published in the journal Brain, was funded by the Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council and Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children.