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Bureau of Nutrition and Physical Activity
Folic Acid Education and Distribution Program
Senate Bill 1573 created a program under the Department of Health Services to provide folic acid to low-income women of childbearing age through the local health departments. Participants in the program receive a year supply of multivitamins (with 400 micrograms of folic acid) in addition to education on the link between folic acid and the prevention of serious birth defects.
Daily intake of folic acid (also known as folate or vitamin B-9) before and during pregnancy significantly reduces the risk of several major birth defects. Reductions in neural tube defects, which include anencephaly and spina bifida, have been directly linked to folic acid intake. There have also been significant decreases in cleft defects (cleft lip and cleft palate) linked to proper folic acid intake. Consumption of foods with naturally occurring folate is poor in the United States. Certain grain and flour products are fortified with this important nutrient, but even with fortification most women do not consume enough folate. Therefore, public health officials promote intake of the synthetic version, folic acid, at a recommended amount of 400 micrograms daily for women of childbearing age.
Even for women not planning to become pregnant, folic acid intake is important. We know that 50% of all pregnancies are not planned, and neural tube defects occur very early (around 28 days after conception). Therefore, starting prenatal vitamins after pregnancy is confirmed, or even suspected, is too late.
Folic Acid Brochures
Note: Information provided in PDF files.