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22nd Apr 2015

Doctors urge women to take folic acid following sharp rise in birth defects

STUDY: Neural tube defects have increased by 27%

Irish obstetricians have called for a major public health campaign promoting folic acid supplementation after a study revealed there has been a 27 per cent rise in neural tube defects.

A study carried out at the Coombe women’s hospital showed that less than 25 per cent of pregnant women had taken folic acid, which can cut neural-tube defects such as spina bifida by up to 70 per cent, before conceiving.

Doctors raised concerns with the HSE when they noticed they were carrying out more operations on children suffering from spina bifida.

Michael Turner, UCD professor of obstetrics at the Coombe, says the message for women is that “you shouldn’t wait until you are pregnant to take folic acid. Any woman who could get pregnant should be taking it.”

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Public Health, the last ten years has seen a decrease in the number of food products that are fortified with folic acid.

Experts believe the recession has also had an impact, forcing low-income families to purchase food that is less nutritious in an effort to save money.

The HSE recommends taking at least 400 micrograms of folic acid a day while you’re trying to get pregnant, and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Did you take folic acid before conceiving? If so, how long did you take it? Join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter #HFfolicacid.