Doctors miss chance to advise women of vitamin that prevents birth defects, survey finds

1 in 5 say theyd probably take folic acid if their doctor recommended it

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., SEPT. 5, 2001 -- Doctors and other health care professionals are losing a key birth defects prevention opportunity by failing to tell their female patients to take a multivitamin every day, according to a new national survey released today by the March of Dimes.

Fewer than one-third of American women of childbearing age not currently pregnant take a daily multivitamin containing folic acid. However, 20 percent of women who dont take the vitamin said unprompted that they would be more likely to do so if their physician or other health care provider recommended it. It also found that most women (76 percent) say their doctor did not discuss the benefits of folic acid with them.

Women look to their doctors for advice on how to do everything possible to have a healthy baby, said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. And it takes very little time for a doctor to say, You need to take a multivitamin containing folic acid every day before you get pregnant. Our survey found that many women would be more likely to take the vitamin if they heard these simple words. Folic acid can prevent some very serious and tragic birth defects of the brain and spine.

"We believe doctors should consider every office visit with a woman of childbearing age as an opportunity to prevent birth defects that shouldnt be missed. Right now, only 22 percent of women say they learned about folic acid from their physician.

Dr. Howse said the survey found that folic acid education campaigns run by the March of Dimes and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over the past six years have raised the profile of the vitamin in the United States. There has been a steady increase in awareness over these years, reaching a high of 79 percent in 2001. However, most women who have heard of folic acid still do not understand that

Contact: Beth Rowan
March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation

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