A recent rise in rates of spina bifida in Scotland has highlighted the importance of folic acid to women of childbearing age. The problem is that many women do not start taking folic acid until they are pregnant, and by then it may be too late.
Spina bifida is a defect in the development of the spinal cord. The spinal cord develops in the first 4 weeks of pregnancy. It has been shown that taking folic acid supplements pre-conceptually greatly reduces the risk of the foetus developing spina bifida. Ideally the folic acid supplement should be taken for at least 3 months pre-conceptually to build up your reserves, and then for the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy.
Many pregnancies are unplanned, and so some experts are calling for all women of childbearing age to take folic acid supplements. The supplement can be taken on its own, or as part of a mutivitamin supplement, such as Wellwomen
If you find that you are pregnant unexpectedly, then start taking folic acid immediately
Reccomended daily dose is 0.4 mg (400 microgram)
If you have had a previous baby with spina bifida the dose is much higher (see your doctor for prescription & to discuss before you start trying to conceive)
Click here for more info about folic acid for Food Standards Agency http://www.eatwell.gov.uk/healthydiet/nutritionessentials/vitaminsandminerals/folicacid/
Click here to read BBC news coverage http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/8232089.stm