From the 22nd – 26th October, it’s the important Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Awareness Week. During this week, the charity Shine are encouraging the country to ‘go yellow’ to show their support for the campaign. Shine are campaigning for the fortification of flour with folic acid to reduce the likelihood of birth defects such as spina bifida.
Although the causes of spina bifida in babies are not fully understood, it is understood that a folic acid deficiency can cause this problem. Spina bifida literally means ‘split spine’ and develops between the 18th – 28th day after conceiving due to neural tube defects. Over 1000 pregnancies are affected by NTDs. Those who live with spina bifida suffer poor mobility, bladder and bowel issues and learning difficulties, with many living with ill-health as well as life-long disability. It is considered one of the most severe conditions for those living.
75% of women have folate levels that would put their babies at risk to developing neural tube defects. A recent survey by Tommy’s Charity showed just under 40% of women stopped contraception the same week they decided they wanted a baby. This does not allow time to improve folate levels before conception to prevent any birth defects. There is also evidence that folic acid taken prior to conception and in the early days of pregnancy can reduce the chance of children being diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorders or severe language impairment.
Every day, 2 women terminate their pregnancies due to a neural tube defect diagnosis. If you’re concerned about your own pregnancy care and whether you are taking enough folic acid, please enquire at your GPs or Health Centre.