A healthy pregnancy starts with healthy nutritions. During the first 1,000 days of life, a healthy lifestyle including balanced nutrition is important to establishing a child’s future health.
One of the main goals of the International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus is to reduce the prevalence of neural tube defects and Hydrocephalus by primary prevention. This involves the following objectives:
- Improving national decision-makers’ access to knowledge about primary prevention of spina bifida and adult hydrocephalus
- Improving organisational capacity of IF members to work on primary prevention.
- Improving processes of multi-stakeholder networking
- Facilitating mutual learning among IF members
- Helping members develop research-based advocacy strategies and supporting them in the implementation of their advocacy goals.
- Supporting national campaigns and communicating outcomes
Every January, the International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus works with its member organisations, partners and supporters to promote the World Folic Acid Awareness Week as part of the IF Global Prevention Initiative (IFGPI) as a prevention campaign to raise awareness about preventable Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) such as Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus through folic acid supplements, staple foods fortified with folic acid or foods rich in folate, the natural form of folic acid.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that during pregnancy, the body requires more micronutrients such as vitamin A, iron, iodine and folate. These are essentials for normal physiological function, growth and development. Deficiencies of micronutrients are particularly common during pregnancy, due to increased nutrient requirements of the mother and developing baby. These deficiencies can negatively impact both the mother and the health of the baby.
Folic acid is an important B vitamin (vitamin B9) which plays a significant role in the growth and development of the cells in our body and in the formation of DNA. Folic acid is essential to create the very building blocks for life, which is why it becomes particularly important in the very early days of pregnancy when cell division is at its most rapid. Because of this, extra folic acid both before conception and during early pregnancy to support the development of their babies is needed. A lack of folic acid can increase the risk of babies developing birth defects of the brain and spine called Neural Tube Defects (NTDs), such as Spina Bifida. NTDs may occur when the brain and spine fail to form properly during the first 28 days of pregnancy, before many women even realise that they are pregnant.
Therefore, the advise is to take a daily folic acid supplementation of 400mcg for at least 12 weeks before conception.
If you are likely to get pregnant it is important to pay close attention to a healthy lifestyle including balanced nutrition. Please consult your doctor for further details.
For further information, you can also check the resources below:
- IFGPI Folic Acid Leaflet (available in EN, FR, NL, SP, IT, TR)
- Smarter Futures – an African way to promote food fortitication (News IF website)
- Advocacy Tool to Promote the Implementation of Folic Acid Intervention
- World Health Organization. Guidelines on food fortification with micronutrients. World Health Organization, 2006.
- World Health Organization E-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions
- Global Fortification Data Exchange (GFDx)