The Scottish Spina Bifida Association has reported 15 infants born with Spina Bifida since January of 2009. This is twice the number of cases reported in the previous year. At the heart of the increase in Spina Bifida could be a reduced number of women taking folic acid supplements.
While folic acid supplements are often taken after a mother conceives, the time when the body needs the supplement the most could already be passed by the time pregnancy is confirmed. For this reason, experts are suggesting all women of childbearing age increase their daily intake of folic acid whether they are planning on starting a family or not.
The fetus uses folic acid during the first few weeks of gestation when the neural tube is developing. Women often have no idea they are pregnant until their first menstrual cycle is missed. By the time they are tested, the fast developing fetus is already out of the stage when the highest folic acid levels are needed.
According to the Scottish Spina Bifida Association, as many as ¾ of the reported cases could have been avoided with proper folic acid supplementation before pregnancy. Doctors suggest taking folic acid supplements at least three months prior to becoming pregnant. Taking a prenatal vitamin as a multivitamin every morning supplements the body just enough to prevent many cases of Spina Bifida.
Source: Scottish Spina Bifida Association - September 2009