Women who are planning on starting a family, or even just those who are of child-bearing age are being urged by The American Heart Association (AHA) to take a daily multivitamin containing 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid in order to reduce the risk of neural tube birth defects. Taking the recommended dosage just before and during pregnancy is important because it can significantly lower malformations of the spine, skull and brain of the fetus.
The AHA noted that "folic acid is critical to the normal growth and development of the fetus and appears to have a protective effect against the development of heart defects. Data suggest intake of folic acid is particularly important prior to conception."
"Since the government began its mandatory food fortification program in 1998, and public/private partnerships have been urging women to take a multivitamin with folic acid, we've seen a 27 percent decline in the number of neural tube birth defects in this country. The importance of women getting the right amount of folic acid daily cannot be stressed strongly enough." - Judy Meehan, Executive Director of National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition.