January 8th to 14th is world folic acid awareness week!
This week, I will be joining the International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus (IF) in their global effort to raise awareness to all women of childbearing age about the importance of folic acid and vitamin B12 in the prevention of neural tube defects (NTDs).
Every January, The IF promote world folic acid awareness week, as part of their global prevention initiative to reduce the worldwide risk of NTDs and hydrocephalus.
NTDs is the term used to describe a range of potentially debilitating and sometimes fatal conditions, the most common of which are anencephaly and spina bifida. These are the second most common birth defects after congenital heart defects.
Spina bifida affects around half a million pregnancies globally every year. The neural tube is the structure that eventually develops into the baby's brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system). The central nervous system and spinal cord start to form just after conception, between days 14 to 23. This can be just before, or as women are suspecting they may be pregnant.
The message from the Department of Health in the UK and the IF is taking folic acid at least one month, ideally three months before conception, is vital in helping to prevent neural tube defects. Yet it seems many women are unaware of the importance of folic acid (Vitamin B9), together with vitamin B12. They are essential for healthy cell growth and development. Daily supplements are recommended, alongside a healthy balanced diet rich in natural source folates and consumption of fortified cereals and grains.
Over 80 countries now have a mandate to fortify staple foods with folic acid to help further reduce the global risk of NTDs.
If you are a parent who has been diagnosed with NTD in pregnancy or have a child with these conditions, contact a counsellor for support.