Local campaign highlights the importance of folic acid for women

Women are being urged to take a folic acid supplement if they are likely to become pregnant in a bid to help prevent certain birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.

Galway City Early Years committee is supporting the recent Safefood campaign on folic acid called “Babies know the facts about folic”.

This includes information and advice on the importance of folic acid and acts as a reminder to women to take a folic acid supplement if there is any chance they could become pregnant.

Many women falsely think that they should only take this vitamin when pregnant. The fact is that if there is any chance that you could become pregnant (whether you are planning to or not ) then you need to take folic acid every day. It is recommended to take a folic acid supplement of 400 micrograms daily.

Valerie O Connor, a senior HSE dietitian, explains why this is important. “Folic acid is a vitamin and is also known as vitamin B9 which is essential for everyone’s health and is particularly important in early pregnancy in helping to prevent certain birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, known as neural tube defects (NTDs ).” Spina bifida is one of the most common NTDs.

“Folic acid isn’t stored in the body so you need to take it every day. It works best if you take it at least three months before you become pregnant to help reduce the risk of neural tube defects in the unborn child. If you are already pregnant start taking folic acid straight away and continue each day for up to three months into your pregnancy.”

It’s best to take folic acid as an individual supplement because that ensures that you get the right dose of 400 micrograms a day. Some multivitamins may contain 400 micrograms of folic acid but they may also contain vitamin A, which is not recommended during pregnancy. So check the label. Folic acid supplements are not expensive and can often cost less than a cent a day.

The safefood campaign, which is supported by the HSE, has been developed to encourage all women who are sexually active and who could become pregnant, to take a folic acid supplement. It is also designed to encourage health professionals to include advice on folic acid in their consultations with women. The campaign is also designed to address many of the myths surrounding folic acid that contribute to behavioural barriers. For example, one in 10 women wrongly believe they get enough folic acid from their food.

Safefood has created materials for the public and for health professionals which engage audiences with humour and then give them facts about folic acid and promote behavioural change. There is a dedicated information hub on the safefood website www.safefood.eu/folicacid


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