Spina Bifida rates remain too high

healthy babyHealth experts are urging young women to increase their folic acid intake well in advance of conception and throughout pregnancy to reduce the possibility of neural tube defects such as spina bifida developing in their children.

Dr. Anne Clark, member of the Fertility Society of Australia, said: "It's been fifty years since folic acid was first thought to prevent birth defects, yet not all women are heeding medical and Government advice that would help reduce rates of spina bifida even further."

Overall, rates of spina bifida among births have declined since 1982, but there was no significant decrease during the period 1998-2005 despite early diagnosis, health education and health promotion programs, and voluntary fortification of food with folic acid.

Every year, around 50 babies in Australia are born alive with neural tube defects such as spina bifida which commonly present as lower limb paralysis and learning difficulties.

Women younger than 30 years of age have significantly higher rates of neural tube defects such as spina-bifida-affected pregnancies than women aged over 30.

Folic acid is necessary for the production and maintenance of new cells, which is especially important during periods of rapid cell division and growth such as infancy and pregnancy multivitamin supplements that contain 800mcg folic acid help to prevent the occurrence of neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

"Women must take more care in planning their pregnancies to help reduce rates of spina bifida further. Increased intake of multivitamins high in folic acid before pregnancy and through to the third trimester can reduce the chances of an unborn baby developing spina bifida, especially in women who have low absorption of folic acid," Dr. Clark said.

Vitamin supplements should not replace a balanced diet. Always read the label. Use only as directed.