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Latinas at highest risk for folic acid-related birth defects

 Latinas have the highest rates of folic acid-related birth defects known as neural tube defects (NTDs) when compared to women of other ethnicities. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicate Latinas are most likely to have low blood folate levels, are less likely to consume foods fortified with folic acid, and are less likely to be aware of the importance of folic acid when it comes to pregnancy.

Folic acid, a b-complex vitamin, is essential in the production of DNA, and research has shown 50 to 70 percent of neural tube defects  could be prevented if mothers-to-be took 400 mcg of folic acid before and during pregnancy.

“More than half of all pregnancies are unplanned, which is why it’s so important that all women of childbearing age take a multivitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid beginning before and continuing through pregnancy,” Joann Petrini, PhD, MPH, director of the March of Dimes Perinatal Data Center, told

shutterstock 95477233 Optimized Latinas at highest risk for folic acid related birth defects

(Shutterstock photo)

In previous research, the March of Dimes found Hispanic women and women between the ages of 18 and 24 were the two groups least likely to take the recommended dosage of folic acid.

Only 17 percent of Latinas of childbearing age in the United States take folic acid supplements daily, compared to approximately 40 percent of women from other ethnicities.

Part of the issue may be the traditional view Hispanic women have regarding pregnancy. Dr. Michelle A. Bholat, a Latina family physician at UCLA, told the Los Angeles Times. ”When you are pregnant, you don’t take anything into your body, even a little pill that the doctors give you.”

Previous research has suggested the lack of folic acid among Latinas is also likely related to lower levels of education, delays in prenatal care, and less health care counseling.

To help address the issue of folic acid deficiency among Latinas, the CDC is promoting a number of educational initiatives, especially during National Folic Acid Awareness Week in January. The organization will offer a number of Latina-specific programs as well as literature in both English and Spanish.

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