Folic Acid & Neural Tube Defects: Data & Statistics

  • In the United States, 3,000 pregnancies are affected by neural tube defects every year (1).
  • Hispanic women have higher rates of neural tube defects than non-Hispanic women in the United States (2).
  • Worldwide, there are more than 300,000 babies born with neural tube defects each year (3).
  • The total lifetime direct cost of care for a child born with spina bifida in the United States is estimated to be $791,900 (4).
  • Increasing folic acid intake among women of childbearing age can help prevent 150,000-210,000 of the more than 300,000 neural tube defects that occur each year in low- and middle-resource countries (5).
Neural Tube Defects Prevalence Changes Before and After Folic Acid Fortification

Key Findings

Key Findings: Global Burden of Neural Tube Defects
The journal, PLOS ONE, has published a study describing the burden of neural tube defects in many countries and gaps in available data on neural tube defects worldwide.
(Published June 17, 2016)

Key Findings: Assessing the Association between Natural Food Folate Intake and Blood Folate Concentrations
The journal Nutrients has published a new study that assessed the relationship between the amount of natural food folate consumed by women and their blood folate concentrations.
(Published April, 2015)

Key Findings: Population Red Blood Cell Folate Concentrations for the Prevention of Neural Tube Defects
This study describes the relationship between women’s blood folate concentrations and the risk of having a baby affected by a neural tube defect.
(Published July, 2014)


  1. CDC. Spina Bifida and Anencephaly Before and After Folic Acid Mandate — United States, 1995–1996 and 1999—2000. MMWR 2004; 53(17): 362-5.
  2. Williams LJ, Rasmussen SA, Flores A, Kirby ES, Edmonds LD. Decline in the prevalence of spina bifida and anencephaly by race/ethnicity: 1995-2002. Pediatrics. 2005 Sep:116(3):580-6.
  3. Shibuya K, Murray CJ. Congenital anomalies. In: Health dimensions of sex and reproduction: the global burden of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, maternal conditions, perinatal disorders, and congenital anomalies. Murray CJ, Lopez AD, eds. Boston, Massachusetts: the Harvard School of Public Health on behalf of the World Health Organization and the World Bank; 1998:455-512.
  4. Grosse SD, Berry RJ, Tilford JM, Kucik JE, Waitzman NJ. Retrospective assessment of cost savings from prevention: Folic acid fortification and spina bifida in the U.S. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. January 2016 [epub ahead of print].
  5. CDC. CDC Grand Rounds: Additional Opportunities to Prevent Neural Tube Defects with Folic Acid Fortification. MMWR 2010; 59(31);980-4.