How To Prevent the Risk of Spina Bifida During Pregnancy

Spina bifida is a type of neural tube defect that occurs when a baby’s spine and spinal cord do not develop properly in the womb, causing a gap in the spine.

The neural tube is the structure that eventually develops into the baby’s brain and spinal cord and it starts to form in early pregnancy and closes about four weeks after conception.

In spina bifida, part of the neural tube doesn’t develop or close properly, leading to defects in the spinal cord and bones of the spine (vertebrae).

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Although what causes spina bifida is not known, doctors conclude a number of risk factors can result to a  baby developing the condition, including:

  • low folic acid intake during pregnancy
  • having a family history of spina bifida
  • medication – taking certain medications during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of having a baby with spina bifida.

Folic acid is important for pregnancy, as it can help to prevent neural tube defects, including spina bifida.

Take a 400 microgram folic acid tablet every day while you are trying to get pregnant and until you are 12 weeks pregnant. If you didn’t take folic acid before you conceived, you should start as soon as you find out that you are pregnant.

Eat foods that contain folate (the natural form of folic acid), such as green leafy vegetables and brown rice.

Some breakfast cereals and some fat spreads such as margarine have folic acid added to them. It is difficult to get the amount of folate recommended for pregnancy from food alone, which is why it is important to take a folic acid supplement.

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It’s best to get vitamins and minerals from the food you eat, but when you are pregnant you will need to take some supplements as well, to make sure you get everything you need. It’s recommended that you take:

  1. 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day throughout your pregnancy – you should also carry on taking this after your baby is born if you breastfeed
  2. 400 micrograms of folic acid each day – you should take this from before you are pregnant until you are 12 weeks pregnant
  3. Do not take vitamin A supplements, or any supplements containing vitamin A (retinol), as too much could harm your baby.
    You can get supplements from pharmacies and supermarkets, or your GP may be able to prescribe them for you. If you want to get your folic acid or vitamin D from a multivitamin tablet, make sure that the tablet does not contain vitamin A (or retinol).

 

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