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FOR RELEASE: May 9, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Mother’s Day Wish is to Prevent NTD Birth Defects

"Happy Mother’s Day!" is a phrase a lot of women will be hearing on May 14 as families and churches take time to recognize the importance of motherhood and raising healthy babies. Officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) picked Mother’s Day as an opportunity to encourage all females of childbearing age who are physically capable of becoming pregnant to consume 400 micrograms of folic acid every day to prevent neural tube defects (NTDs).

Birth defects are the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States, however, researchers have discovered that folic acid can help prevent NTDs, a serious birth defect of the brain and spine. The neural tube forms the baby’s brain and spinal cord and is completely formed before most women realize they are pregnant.

It is difficult to obtain enough folate just from food because few foods are high in folate, only about half the natural folate in foods is absorbed by the body, and cooking or processing food destroys 50 to 90 percent of folate in foods. As a result, most women only get about half of the folic acid intake needed each day.

The OSDH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that women obtain 400 micrograms of folic from three sources each day: a multivitamin that contains 400 micrograms of folic acid, foods fortified with folic acid and foods high in folate.

State health officials urge all women of childbearing age to help prevent NTDs by taking the recommended amount of folic acid daily. It is a simple way to prevent this birth defect and one of the best gifts to give on Mother’s Day.

Data obtained from the Oklahoma Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System survey (PRAMS) found that mothers with intended pregnancies were more likely to take multivitamins prior to pregnancy compared to those whose pregnancies were unintended. Since half of all Oklahoma pregnancies are reported as unintended, it makes the job of health educators and physicians even more difficult to reach females with the information prior to pregnancy.

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