Folic Acid: Fact versus Fiction


Folic Facts

Folic acid is for all sexually active woman of child bearing age! Fact.

You are not planning to become pregnant so you do not need to take folic acid? Fiction.

Half of all pregnancies in Northern Ireland are unplanned. You might think an unplanned pregnancy couldn’t happen to you, but most contraceptives are only 99% effective. It could happen!

The reason folic acid is so important is because it helps prevent neural tube defects. Specifically spina bifida and  hydrocephalus. When a child is conceived those first few weeks are vital. Those first few weeks when a women does not even realise she is pregnant can define whether or not a child is born with spina bifida. In fact, the recommendation is that women take a dose of 400 micrograms folic acid for at least 3 months prior to conceiving, and for 3 months into the pregnancy. This will provide the baby with the best chance of developing a healthy spine.

Research shows that less than 20% of women in Northern Ireland take folic acid before they become pregnant!

If only we had a crystal ball with which to predict the future? However, that is not the case!

No-one can predict if they will conceive in 3 months time. Either intentionally or otherwise. Fact.

That’s why it is so important for women to take folic acid every day throughout their childbearing years! Make it a part of your daily routine! To quote Prof Jim Dornan, Chair Foetal Medicine QUB and a leading consultant in gynaecology and obstetrics in Northern Ireland:

“Starting folic acid supplements when you find out you are pregnant is like putting on factor 30 at the end of a day sunbathing.”

It’s a little late by then!

Maybe you think:

  • You’ve already had a healthy child so you aren’t at risk! Fiction.
  • You eat a really healthy diet so you get enough folic acid from your food. Fiction.
  • It couldn’t happen to you as you aren’t planning a pregnancy! Fiction.

Folic Acid Facts

Between 12 and 18 babies in Northern Ireland are affected every year. A daily folic acid supplement could prevent around 70% of these cases.

One little tablet that you can buy with your groceries, that will cost you a few pennies every week! That’s all it would take to decrease your risk of having a baby with spina bifida.

Life doesn’t always go to plan!

Be smart.

Take a folic acid supplement.

I was delighted to attend a conference by safefood, highlighting this issue, and I am more than happy to work in partnership with them to help spread this message. You can find out more information on their website. Just click here. And then tell your friends, your sisters, your daughters and your colleagues! And don’t forget to take your folic acid!


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