CDC: Neural Tube Defects Declining in the United States

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CDC: Neural Tube Defects Declining in the United States
CDC: Neural Tube Defects Declining in the United States

(HealthDay News) -- Neural tube defects have fallen 35 percent in the United States since mandatory folic acid fortification of enriched grain products was introduced in 1998; however, many American women who had a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect and get pregnant again still don't follow folic acid supplement recommendations, federal officials reported Thursday. Both reports appear in the Jan. 16 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The first report notes that 1,326 fewer babies are born annually with neural tube defects such as spina bifida, the most common neural tube defect. However, even with folic acid fortification, some women don't get enough of the B vitamin, especially Hispanic women, according to the CDC. The agency said all women of childbearing age need to get 400 µg of folic acid daily from fortified foods, supplements, or both, and to eat foods high in folic acid.

The other report released Thursday indicates that many American women who had a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect and get pregnant again don't follow folic acid supplement recommendations. Health care providers need to do more to encourage these women to boost their folic acid intake, the report authors said. Among women with a neural tube defect in a previous pregnancy, only 35 percent of those who had a neural tube defect in a second pregnancy took folic acid, compared with 80 percent of those with a birth defect-free pregnancy.

Women who've experienced a neural tube defect are at increased risk for another one, the researchers noted. It's known that high-dose folic acid supplements -- 4 mg a day taken at least four weeks before becoming pregnant and through the first 12 weeks of pregnancy -- reduce the risk of neural tube defects.

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