Neural tube defects, like spina bifida, are serious birth defects of the brain and spine that affect approximately 3,000 pregnancies each year in the United States. The lifetime cost of care for a child born with spina bifida is estimated to be $560,000 (1).
Health care professionals should encourage every woman who might become pregnant to consume 400 micrograms of synthetic folic acid every day in a vitamin supplement or in foods enriched with folic acid. Following this regimen before and during early pregnancy can prevent serious birth defects of the spine and brain (2).
A report of data from 2007 found that among all women of childbearing age, women aged 25 - 34 years were the most likely to report consuming a daily supplement containing folic acid (47%), followed by women aged 35 - 45 years (40%) and women aged 18 - 24 years (30%).
In 2007, women aged 18 - 24 years had the least awareness regarding folic acid consumption (61%), the least knowledge regarding when folic acid should be taken (6%), and the lowest reported daily use of supplements containing folic acid (30%). Because women in this age group account for nearly one third of all births in the United States (3), promotion of folic acid consumption should be targeted to this population. Innovative and effective messages tailored to women aged 18-24 years are needed to help increase awareness and knowledge regarding folic acid consumption, change behaviors, and ultimately reduce the incidence of neural tube defects (NTDs).
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Page last reviewed: January 16, 2008
Page last updated: December 16, 2009
Content source: National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
Content owner: National Center for Health Marketing
URL for this page: http://www.cdc.gov/datastatistics/2008/folicAcid/