What is folic acid? Why is it important?
This week is National Folic Acid Awareness week. Folic acid (also called folate) is one of the B vitamins and is crucial for our body to function normally. It is especially important for all women to get enough folic acid before and during pregnancy to lessen the risk of birth defects in their child. Women taking certain seizure medicines may also be at risk for birth defects in their child, therefore being aware of the role of folic acid before conception is critical.
Who should take folic acid?
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all women of child-bearing age take 400 ug (micrograms) or 0.4 mg (milligrams) of folic acid every day to reduce the risk of birth defects, including those involving the brain and spinal cord.
- All teenage girls and women living with epilepsy who are capable of becoming pregnant should take folic acid and learn about contraception options, family planning, and pregnancy.
- Women with epilepsy taking certain seizure medicines may be at higher risk of having a child with a birth defect. Also, women who have had a prior child with a birth defect are at higher risk. These women may be advised to take a higher dose of folic acid.
- Hispanic and Latina women have the highest rates of pregnancies with neural tube defects and the lowest reported use of folic acid.
Where can folic acid be found?
- In multivitamins and folic acid supplements
- In fortified foods
- In leafy dark green vegetables, citrus fruits and juices, and lentils
What can I do for National Folic Acid Awareness Week?
- Talk about folic acid! Tell your family and friends about the importance of taking folic acid.
- Share this article on your social media feed.
- Learn about folic acid and how you can spread the word - visit the National Birth Defects Prevention Network.
- Talk to your epilepsy doctor about using folic acid, including how much you should take and at what time of day.
- Review your seizure medicines and seizure control and make sure you are following the best treatment for your age, gender, and stage in the family planning process.
If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, please consider joining pregnancy registries to help us learn more about pregnancy and epilepsy.
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