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Is Folic Acid Effective During Pregnancy?

Written by Berkowitz

vWhen a woman becomes pregnant, she is told to start taking prenatal vitamins – especially those with folic acid. This is because it was believed that folic acid could help deflect the chances of a baby born with a neural tube defect – including anencephaly (a condition where the baby’s brain does not develop) and spina bifida. These conditions are the reason why more cereals, grains, and even flours are fortified with folic acid. However, a new study has now highlighted that taking folic acid (pregnant or not) may not be as effective as originally thought.

The Study

Investigators from Stanford University School of Medicine analyzed more than 1.3 million births across eight central counties in California for a span of 20 years. The study looked at births between 1989 and 2010. Among these, there was an average of 88 cases of neural tube defects for every 100,000 births. After digging deeper into the data, they found that the risk had already started to decline prior to 1997 – before foods were mandated to be fortified with folic acid. There was a risk drop of nine cases per 100,000 births between 1989 and 1996.

The downward trend slowed after fortification of grains and cereals – only dipping to 1.7 cases per 100,000 births between 1999 and 2010 per year.

According to researchers, there are a few reasons that this dip could have occurred, such as the increased number of obesity cases.

One thing that researchers did agree upon, however, was that folic acid may not be as effective as it was originally thought to be. They do not think that women should stop taking additional folic acid during pregnancy, especially because studies still confirm that it could reduce the risk.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers have already found that folic acid fortification reduced the number of babies born with neural tube defects to about 1,300 babies per year. Folic acid is effective at preventing some defects in randomized controlled studies, intervention programs, and fortification programs. The benefits of taking folic acid are well-documented; therefore, researchers do not feel that women should stop taking it; especially since it is likely already in their prenatal vitamin. But, researchers also state that the effectiveness may not be as dramatic as once believed.

Assessing the Risks and Benefits: What to Take During Pregnancy

It is important that pregnant women assess the risks and benefits of medications, supplements, and prescriptions that they take. This is because while there is a reduced risk with certain pregnancy-approved medications, there are still risks that women need to be aware of. Certain prescription medications have been deemed safe only to later be found to be the cause of multiple birth defects. Therefore, women who are pregnant should discuss the risks and benefits of any proposed medication from their medical provider – and then make an informed decision based on the facts.

Was Your Child Born with a Preventable Birth Defect?

While not all birth defects are medical malpractice, a large majority could be prevented with proper care and treatment from a physician. If your child suffered from a birth defect due to improper care, a misdiagnosis incident, or a medication that you were prescribed during pregnancy, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Berkowitz and Hanna LLC today to schedule your no-obligation consultation. Call us at 866-479-7909 or contact us online to get started.