The survey results, published in the September 30 issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), highlight the need to increase folic acid fortification of the grain supply, the March of Dimes says.
Daily use of folic acid has not shown a substantial increase between 1995 and 2005 despite nationwide educational efforts by the March of Dimes and other agencies.
The results of the survey, conducted for the March of Dimes by The Gallup Organization with funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, highlight the need to increase folic acid fortification of the grain supply, the March of Dimes says.
"Folic acid must be part of women's daily diet. That's the best way we know to spare thousands of babies the risk of death or disability caused by neural tube defects,'' said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. "The survey results show that despite our efforts and those of other organizations, two-thirds of women ages 18-45 are not taking all the necessary steps to help reduce the risk of neural tube defects. We need to increase the amount of folic acid in the grain supply and add it to corn flour. That way, women will get most of the folic acid they need through a healthy diet without having to think about it and their babies will be safer."
Currently, enriched grain foods in the United States must contain 140 micrograms of folic acid per 100 grams of grain.
Neural tube defects (NTDs), such as spina bifida and anencephaly, are among the most serious types of birth defects. Each year, NTDs affect about 3,000 pregnancies. To help prevent NTDs, the March of