Folic Acid Key Before, During, And After Pregnancy - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

1/26/05

Folic Acid Key Before, During, And After Pregnancy

Having a child with birth defects is many women's worst nightmare.

Estela Hernandez is 21 weeks into her third pregnancy. She's been lucky to have two healthy children. She also hasn't gone a day without taking folic acid.

"I'm hoping for this one to be as healthy as the two were," she said.

But Estela is no stranger to birth defects. At 13, she saw firsthand what happened to her stepmother, when she didn't take folic acid, the B-vitamin necessary for proper cell growth.

"I know that they were giving her the prenatal vitamins, and she didn't take them. She had twins, and they were premature. One has Down Syndrome," Estela said.

Other birth defects can also result, like spina bifida and cleft lip and palate.

"Even after promoting folic acid for 10 years, we still have only 12 percent of women that know they need to take folic acid before they're pregnant for the best effect," Susan Bennett, R.D., a nutrition consultant with the Texas Department of State Health Services, said.

She says it's also important for women to continue taking folic acid, even after their pregnancy.

Plenty of foods contain folic acid, like fortified whole grain bread, vegetables, and even cereal. Just check the nutrition label.

"We're a little concerned right now that with low-carb diets being so popular, that people are not going to eat enough of the fortified grain products," Bennett said. "So they're reducing the folic acid they're getting from their food."

And research has shown the synthetic version of the vitamin, folate, found in bread is the best kind. At the very least, 400 micrograms found in one vitamin will help you have a healthier baby.

Folic acid awareness is so important that the U.S. surgeon general has named his 2005 agenda "The Year of the Healthy Child."

Julie Tam, reporting.

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