Neural tube defects
It is twenty-seven years since the Medical Research Council (MRC) published its research demonstrating that supplementing the diets of women before and during the early stages of pregnancy with folic acid reduced the chance of that pregnancy being affected by neural tube defects (NTDs).
I am reaching out and raising awareness to all women of childbearing age about the importance of folic acid and vitamin B12 in the prevention of neural tube defects (NTDs)
Neural tube defects 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 ½ 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 14-23. 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 International Federation is taking folic acid at least 1 month, ideally 3 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.
Parents whose babies have been diagnosed during pregnancy and those whose children are born with this condition can access a range of confidential services, including counselling that support parents emotionally.
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