January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. Given the ongoing partnership between the Grain Foods Foundation and the March of Dimes, January is the perfect time to remind consumers about the steps we can take to support maternal health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the two most common birth defects, spina bifida and anencephaly development affect one in 1,000 pregnancies in the United States. Many of these can be prevented through a healthy diet and lifestyle.
One particularly important lifestyle step that women of childbearing age can take is consuming a folic acid-rich diet.
Folic acid, a B vitamin, is crucial for the development of a baby’s spinal cord, which begins forming in the weeks following conception (before most women even know they’re pregnant). Because of the timing of spinal cord development, women must understand that their pre-pregnancy diet plays an equally important role in their future baby’s health.
The most recent March of Dimes survey examining women’s knowledge and use of folic acid indicated that most women had a general awareness of folic acid, yet the majority were unaware of its role in preventing birth defects.
The Grain Foods Foundation continues to work to educate all women of childbearing age to consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, beginning at pre-conception and continuing into the early months of pregnancy. Enriched grains, such as white bread, tortillas, pasta and cereal, are important sources of folic acid.
In light of National Birth Defects Prevention Month, the Grain Foods Foundation commemorates mandatory folic acid fortification of enriched grains and celebrates the milling and baking industry’s past contribution and continuing commitment to preventing birth defects. Our industry’s products have already made a difference in reducing the rate of birth defects, and I’m confident that our continued efforts will further improve the health of mothers and babies everywhere.