Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

Vitamins May Prevent Birth Defects

Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

Vitamins May Prevent Birth Defects

Article excerpt

Vitamins May Prevent Birth Defects

Birth defects are the leading cause of infant mortality and morbidity in the United States, exceeding even low birth weight. The occurrence of malformations of the central nervous system, such as anencephaly (incomplete or absent brain) and spina bifida (open spine) - collectively called "neural tube defects" or NTD - in the U.S. is higher than that of muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, polio and cystic fibrosis combined.

NTD cannot be cured. With intensive medical management and repeated surgical procedures, increasing numbers of spina bifida children are now surviving into adulthood. Complications such as paralysis of the legs, bladder and bowel dysfunction and a buildup of fluid in the brain require lifelong medical management.

Recently, several studies from the field of nutritional epidemiology have brought new hope for the prevention of this delilitating birth defect. Large population studies completed within the past two years show that women who take multivitamin supplements containing folic acid before getting pregnant and during the first trimester of pregnancy have a greatly reduced risk - by as much as 50% - of having a baby with NTD. Of all the studies done to date, only one has failed to find a strong association between multivitamin usage and reduced risk of NTD. …

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