Birth defects are more common than most people think. One in every 33 children born in the U.S. is affected by some type of birth defect.

The most common birth defects are of the face and mouth, specifically cleft palate and cleft lip. The risk of these and other birth defects including but not limited to, spina bifida, anacephaly, and congenital heart disease, is greatly reduced with the daily use of folic acid.

January 7-13 is National Folic Acid Awareness Week. The CDC and U.S. Public Health Service urge all women of childbearing age who can become pregnant, to add 400 mcg of folic acid to their daily diet.

Because birth defects develop within the first few weeks of pregnancy, it is important to have the recommended level of folic acid in your system before becoming pregnant.

There are two ways to consume 400 mcg of folic acid daily:

  • Taking a daily multi-vitamin containing folic acid
  • Eating a diet that contains fortified foods like pastas, grains, and vegetables.

In addition to getting 400 mcg of folic acid from supplements and fortified foods, it is also important to eat a diet rich in folate. Folate is a form of the B vitamin folic acid. It is found naturally in some foods, such as leafy, dark green vegetables, citrus fruits and juices, and beans.

This year, celebrate National Folic Acid Awareness Week by adding folic acid to your daily regimen.