National Folic Acid Awareness Week is Jan. 6-12. Folic acid is an important B vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects (NTDs) within the baby’s brain or spine.
Taking folic acid aids in the multiplication of cells, allowing proper growth and preventing NTDs. It is recommended for all women of childbearing age to take an extra 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. It can be found in multivitamins, prenatal vitamins and in many food sources, like those offered as part of the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program. WIC helps steer women in the right direction for proper nutrition education for her developing baby.
NTDs occur when the neural tube fails to close properly, leaving the developing brain or spinal cord exposed to amniotic fluid. The most common NTDs are spina bifida and anencephaly. Spina bifida occurs when the lower end of the neural tube fails to close, causing spine or back problems, which can sometimes be corrected with surgery. Conversely, anencephaly is a condition where the upper end of the neural tube fails to close, often causing the brain to never completely develop, or be absent altogether. Pregnancies affected in these cases often end in miscarriage.
As it is important to take folic acid via vitamin supplement every day, it is also important for women to eat foods rich in folic acid. Those foods include fortified breakfast cereals, whole grains and pastas.
That’s where the WIC program comes to the rescue! Yes, there is a method to the madness of the question, “Why do I get all of this breakfast cereal on my WIC benefit card?” The WIC program provides a variety of nutritious foods, which provide not only folic acid but also whole grains, vitamin C, iron, high protein and calcium for the growing pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum mothers, infants and children.
If you are pregnant, call the Clark County Health Department to see if you qualify for the WIC program or to get proper nutrition education and folic acid consumption for your developing baby. For more information, call the department at 744-4482; or visit the website at www.clarkhealthdept.org.