Wednesday 28 September 2016

New campaign aims to raise awareness of folic acid benefits

Cormac Fitzgerald

Published 20/07/2015 | 14:58

Breads, cereals, fruit juices, spreads and yogurts are among the products less likely to contain added folic acid resulting in birth defects such as spina bifida.
Breads, cereals, fruit juices, spreads and yogurts are among the products less likely to contain added folic acid resulting in birth defects such as spina bifida.

Less than a quarter of women take folic acid before they are pregnant, despite the positive health benefits it can have for unborn children.

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Research shows that folic acid is vitally important to women and their babies during pregnancy and can help prevent birth defects of the spine and brain in the unborn child.

These are known as neural tube defects (NTDs) and research shows that 70pc of them could be prevented by the right amount of folic acid being taken before and during the early stages of pregnancy.

A new campaign was launched today by safefood that aims to increase awareness of the benefits of folic acid for women, and encourage more women to take a folic acid supplement before they become pregnant.

“We know that women are somewhat aware of folic acid, but with up to 50pc of all pregnancies being unplanned, it’s so important that all women who are sexually active start taking the vitamin daily, even if a baby is the last thing on their mind,” said Dr Rhona Mahony, Master of the National Maternity Hospital, at the launch of the campaign.

Consumer research conducted by safefood shows that less than 10pc of women take folic acid routinely while a further one in 10 believe that they get enough of the vitamin from food. 

Read more: Ask the GP: What to take and avoid when pregnant  

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director of Human Health & Nutrition at safefood, said that regularly taking folic acid is essential for a healthy mother and baby:

“We simply can’t get enough folic acid from our food alone even with fortified foods – taking a daily folic acid supplement of 400 mcg is the only way to go.

“Folic acid is widely available, and doesn’t cost more than a few cents a day.

“Taking folic acid doesn’t mean you are planning a baby but just means when you do have a baby, however far in the future that may be, you are already helping to protect their health,” she said.

Read more: New folic acid campaign to reduce birth defects needed  

The campaign, entitled ‘Babies know the facts about folic’, will run across social media, with information also available at selected pharmacies around the country. 

Anyone looking for more information can visit www.safefood.eu/folicacid or follow the conversation using the hashtag #FolicFacts.

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