One of the most difficult aspects of pregnancy may not be dealing with the added weight or the hormonal swings. No, one of the most difficult parts of pregnancy might be ensuring that you are taking in not only enough nutrients for you and your baby, but also the right kinds. And a remarkable new study warns that too many babies are born with neural tube defects (NTDs) as a result of folic acid deficiency.
Neural defects are those birth defects related to the brain, spine, and spinal cord. As you might imagine, these would be terrible birth defects to find your baby has when it emerges from the womb. What’s worse, the infant could survive only to have severe disability or it could die not long after birth.
Unfortunately, this is a reality all too familiar for too many women in the United Kingdom. A new study, in fact, suggests that as many as 2,000 newborns in the United Kingdom could be at great risk for this deficiency every year. According to researchers out of Queen Mary University of London, nearly 30 percent of pregnant women are not taking their prenatal vitamins properly. Overall, the proper adherence to this folic acid supplementation recommendation could result in as many as 21 percent fewer cases of NTD.
The researchers compared numbers in the United Kingdom with those in the United States, where folic acid—the synthetic form of B9—has been added to bread since 1998.
The researchers also note, then, that the United Kingdom should, then, adopt mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid in the same way that it is done in the United States (and 78 other states who have also done so). The study warns that if the UK does not do this, it could result in at least 150 more pregnancies resulting in NTD each year; and roughly half of these will be a result of spina bifida without anencephaly.
The study researchers report: “Our results show that in the UK between 1998 and 2012, there was little, if any change in the prevalence of pregnancies with a neural tube defect, while in the USA, quickly following the introduction of mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid in 1998, there was an approximate 23 percent reduction in the occurrence of affected births.”
In response, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) comments, “There is strong evidence to suggest that folic acid supplementation before pregnancy reduces the number of pregnancies affected by neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.”