Neural Tube Defects
Birth defects are the leading cause of infant death in South Carolina. One of every 40 babies born in SC will have a major birth defect. The South Carolina Birth Defects Prevention Program works to help reduce and eventually prevent those defects from happening in the first place. A prime success story for the program is in the prevention of neural tube defects.
What are neural tube defects?
Neural tube defects, also called NTDs, are abnormalities of the developing brain and spine. These defects occur very early in pregnancy, often before the mother realizes that she is pregnant.
How can I prevent NTDs?
Research has shown that if a woman takes folic acid before and during pregnancy, she can dramatically lower the chances that her baby will be born with a neural tube defect.
What is folic acid?
Folic acid is a B vitamin involved in cell growth and repair.
Who should take folic acid?
All women who are of childbearing age should take 0.4 mg of folic acid daily. Because many pregnancies are unplanned and NTDs happen before a woman knows she is pregnant, waiting could be too late. Any woman who is able to become pregnant should take folic acid.
Women who have had a previous pregnancy in which the baby had an NTD should talk with their doctor about increasing their folic acid intake even more before becoming pregnant.
How can I get folic acid?
The easiest way to get folic acid is through a daily multivitamin. Most over the counter multivitamins contain the recommended dosage for all women of childbearing age (0.4 mg). Folic acid can also be found in prenatal vitamins and in many types of foods such as green leafy vegetables, cereals, pasta, bread, beans and orange juice.
What is GGC doing to help?
The SC Birth Defects Prevention Program is based at the Greenwood Genetic Center. In 1991, before the Program began, SC had a higher rate of NTDs than any other area of the country. Since then, the rate of NTDs has decreased by more than 60% because of the increased use of folic acid by women of childbearing age. That accounts for about 50 healthy babies per year in SC who would have been born with an NTD.
The Greenwood Genetic Center is also part of the SC Folic Acid Group which provides a public awareness campaign to educate health care providers and the general population, especially women of childbearing age, about the importance of taking folic acid.
See SC Governor Nikki Haley make the proclamation of January as Birth Defects Awareness Month and discuss the importance of folic acid.
Click here to see a list of publications from the SC Birth Defects Research Program.