Taking your vitamins actually decreases the risk for birth defects! It has become fairly common knowledge that when gearing up to become pregnant increasing our intake of folic acid (a B vitamin) is important to aide in preventing birth defects in our offspring, neural tube defects specifically.
So we are not suggesting that you take a vitamin every once in awhile – we are strongly recommending that all women trying to conceive or who are pregnant take folate.
A report from the US Preventive Task Force (USPTF) reaffirms this long-held belief. The USPSTF released its recommendation on folic acid supplements as a way to prevent birth defects after examining data from 24 studies on the benefits and potential harms of folic acid. The recommendations published in the Journal of the American Medical Association are as follows:
- For women who are planning to or are capable of becoming pregnant take a supplement of folic acid of 0.4-0.8 milligrams (400-800 micrograms) daily.
- For women on low carb and gluten free diets you may need to supplement at a higher daily dose. Maternal Fetal Medicine physicians are recommending women w/ high BMI (Body Mass Index) of 35 or higher get high dose folate – 4 milligrams a day or 4,000 micrograms per day.
- If a woman has any history of Neural Tube Defects, a seizure disorder or is on anti-seizure medications – 4 milligrams a day or 4,000 micrograms per day is recommended.
Neural tube defects are major birth defects of the brain and spine that occur early in pregnancy due to improper closure of the embryonic neural tube, which may lead to a range of disabilities or death. The most common neural tube defects are anencephaly (an underdeveloped brain and an incomplete skull) and spina bifida (incomplete closing of the spinal cord).
Daily folic acid supplementation in the periconceptional period can prevent neural tube defects.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have an informative FAQ section on reducing your risks of birth defects on their site and the CDC also adeptly outlines their recommendations on Folic Acid and pregnancy. If you have further questions and concerns about what your folic acid intake should be, we recommend you speak with your IRMS physician, your OB or Primary Care doctor.
Serena H. Chen, MD serves as Director for the Division of Reproductive Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, and the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science, and is a Clinical Associate Professor at Rutgers, UMDNJ Medical School and the St George’s University School of Medicine.