Health Experts, Doctors Advise: Take Folic Acid for Healthy Babies

May is Folic Acid Awareness Month

For Immediate Release: May 19, 2003

Contact: Sally Kerschner
Vermont Department of Health
802-865-7707

Sherry Wormser, Director
March of Dimes, Vermont Chapter
800-696-9255

BURLINGTON, VT—May is Folic Acid Awareness Month. The Vermont Department of Health and the March of Dimes, Vermont Chapter are launching a campaign to urge doctors to recommend to women of childbearing age that they take a multi-vitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day to prevent neural tube birth defects -- even if they are not planning to have a baby at this time.

As part of the awareness campaign, OB/GYN physicians across the state will receive a set of brochures, posters and folic acid prescription pads to assist them in educating their patients about folic acid. City buses in Burlington and Rutland will also carry the folic acid message using large posters mounted on their sides.

“Our practice at Fletcher Allen Health Care is thrilled to be a part of this statewide effort encouraging doctors to send the message of the importance of folic acid to their patients,” said Dr. Eleanor Capeless, a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist at Fletcher Allen Health Care Women’s Health Care Services.

Each year 2,500 babies are born in this country with neural tube defects (NTDs). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that if all women of childbearing age in the United States took just 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, 50 to 70 percent of these birth defects could be prevented. However, a 2002 national Gallup survey found that only one-fifth of Vermont women of childbearing age take a folic acid supplement on a daily basis.

The same Gallup survey found that, if advised to do so by their health care provider, more than half of the women surveyed would be very likely to take folic acid, and another 37 percent would be somewhat likely to take folic acid.

Women, too, are urged to ask their physicians about folic acid. In addition to taking a multi-vitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid, women of childbearing age should also eat a healthy diet, including foods rich in folic acid, such as oranges and orange juice, fortified breakfast cereals, fortified grains, green leafy vegetables, peanuts, peas, asparagus, and beans.

For more information about folic acid and birth defects, contact the March of Dimes, at www.modimes.org or call 800-696-9255.