Taking Folic Acid Can Prevent Certain Birth Defects

By Lauren Wanko

Baby Ashley just entered the world and her mom, Katie Economou, can’t stop beaming.

She said, “I can’t even believe it. I just keep saying to my husband can you believe she’s finally here?”

About six months before Economou got pregnant, she started taking prenatal vitamins to ensure she was getting folic acid.

“I just want her to be as healthy as humanly possible,” Economou explained.

Dr. Steven Morgan of the Jersey Shore University Medical Center said, “Anybody who is thinking about being pregnant or in the reproductive age should be taking something with some kind of daily vitamin that has folic acid.”

Folic acid, a B vitamin, is crucial in helping to prevent some birth defects says Morgan. The New Jersey Department of Health says in 2016, there were 5,378 children registered as having a birth defect.

“The most common birth defect we see, or anyone sees as an OBGYN, is congenital heart defects. The second most common one is neural tube defects. Neural tube defects are when the spine is being formed doesn’t fully close so they can get little outpouching of the spine called spina bifida. We know by taking folic acid you can prevent these neural tube defects,” said Morgan.

New mom Kelly Hannon also started taking folic acid before she became pregnant with 3.5-month-old Wes.

Hannon said, “We just wanted to make sure that he could have the best start that he could possibly have. We wanted him to be happy and healthy.”

The doctor tells his patients to take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily or more if they have certain medical issues or a family history of birth defects. The baby’s spine develops just weeks into pregnancy — which is why Morgan urges patients to take folic acid anywhere from a month to three months prior to getting pregnant.

Dr. Morgan says lots of moms stop taking their prenatals after they’ve had the baby or when they stop breastfeeding. However, he recommends women continue taking prenatal vitamins if they want to add to their family.

Wes may be a sibling sometime in the near future. Mom Kelly says, slow down, not that near into the future, but that’s the plan — which is why she’ll keep taking her vitamins.