Women Falling Short on Birth Defect Prevention

From Drugs.com - October 13, 2017

Women Falling Short on Birth Defect Prevention

FRIDAY, Oct. 13, 2017 -- Only a third of women are taking a multivitamin containing folic acid -- a nutrient known to prevent serious birth defects -- before they know they are pregnant, a new survey has found.

The poll, conducted by the March of Dimes, also revealed significant racial disparities: Just 10 percent of black women and 27 percent of Hispanic women of childbearing age report taking multivitamins with folic acid before pregnancy.

"One of the things that's striking for us is how much more we need to make sure women understand the importance of being healthy before pregnancy," said Stacey Stewart, president of the March of Dimes Foundation.

"Half of all pregnancies are unexpected, which means women of childbearing age need to be doing all they can to be healthy in the event they do get pregnant," she said.

In the United States, more than 120,000 babies -- about 3 percent of all births -- will be born with birth defects this year, including about 3,000 babies born with neural tube defects, according to March of Dimes estimates.

Up to 70 percent of the neural tube defects, which affect the brain and spine, could be prevented if all women of childbearing age took daily multivitamins containing folic acid, the group said.

The survey on prenatal health measures, conducted online in August 2017 by The Harris Poll on behalf of the March of Dimes, polled a nationally representative sample of more than 1,000 U.S. women, 18 to 45 years of age. It also found that:

Stewart said that the number of women concerned about possible changes to the U.S. health care system, as well as costs, points to a serious regard for their access to proper care for themselves and their pregnancies.

"At the March of Dimes, we work very hard to make sure that members of Congress, especially over the last several months, understand how important it is to take into account the health of women and mothers, and the impact health care changes would have on pregnancies and newborn babies," she said.

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