Almost 70 percent of American women of childbearing age don't get enough of the B vitamin folic acid daily even though many of them are aware that it helps prevent birth defects, according to a recent survey by the March of Dimes. Taking a multivitamin that contains folic acid can prevent neural tube defects of the brain and spine (such as spina bifida) in an unborn baby, but it's most important in the earliest weeks of pregnancy -- often before a woman knows she's pregnant. Of the women surveyed, 80 percent knew that folic acid can help prevent birth defects, but only 31 percent actually took a daily multivitamin. If you're pregnant or trying to get pregnant, your doctor will likely prescribe a prenatal vitamin.
But even if you're not, you should still take a daily multivitamin that contains 400 micrograms of folic acid -- just in case. Also try to eat folate-rich foods such as leafy green vegetables, orange juice, peanuts, beans, and fortified grains. And, while you're at it, remind a friend to take her multivitamin!March of Dimes website.
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