World Birth Defects Day: The benefits of taking folic acid

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World Birth Defects Day: Benefits of taking folic acid before & during pregnancyTaking folic acid before and during pregnancy decreases the probability of birth defects by 50-70%, the Directorate for Health Information and Research has said in a statement today.

Today the 3rd of March, marks World Birth Defects Day, a day with the aim to increase awareness and countries' commitment to improve knowledge, prevention and management of these conditions and to raise awareness on how to prevent them.

The Directorate said that globally birth defects effect 1 in every 33 babies born. While several birth defects have no known cause or prevention, others can be prevented by taking appropriate measures before and during pregnancy. A group of major birth defects that are scientifically known to be avoidable are Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) and include spina bifida and anencephaly.

These are severe birth defects resulting from inappropriate development of the neurological system within the first few weeks of pregnancy. The Directorate said that over the past 20 years in Malta the total prevalence rate of NTDs has been 11 per 10,000 births and has not shown a significant decrease.

It said that research shows that when women planning to get pregnant take folic acid before and during the first few months of pregnancy, their risk of having a child with NTDs decreases by up to 50% – 70%.

Despite ongoing work and the improvements seen in health care during the last years, some birth defects are inevitable. The Directorate added that the aim is to always work on developing a holistic approach in increasing access to health care and helping all individuals to improve their quality of life and participate in society while continually working on prevention and decreasing those birth defects that are preventable.

World Birth Defects Day helps us remember that as part of a global society, we need to work on prevention of any avoidable birth defects while providing the best quality of life to those individuals affected by these conditions.

Further information on the report is available for download here.

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