Health Professionals:

Delivering the Message

What We Know

  •  Approximately 45% of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, and 77% of teenage pregnancies are unplanned (Mosher et al., 2012).
  •  NTD rates in the US decreased by 28% for spina bifida and anencephaly since the introduction of food fortification in 1998 (CDC, 2015). However, further reduction will likely only be achieved through women taking a multivitamin or folic acid supplement on a daily basis.
  •  While rates of NTDs are lower in Florida than nationally, there is still much room for improvement.
  •  Many women of childbearing age still do not get the recommended amount of folic acid they need every day to reduce their risk of having a baby with a serious birth defect (Viswanathan et al., 2017) .
  •  Folic acid is an inexpensive, easy, and effective way for women to increase their chances of someday having a healthy baby.
  •  Health care providers are important and necessary sources of the folic acid message to women. Yet, a substantial number of health care providers in Florida and across the U.S. fail to make the recommendation.

What You Can Do

  •  Lead where you are--Anyone can spearhead the message of the preventive health benefits of folic acid in their practice. Use a staff meeting to discuss your office's or organization's responsibility to be a leader in promoting the health benefits of folic acid consumption.
  •  Know and follow folic acid recommendations--Follow the U.S. Public Health Service recommendation of suggesting to your female patients of childbearing age and capable of becoming pregnant that they take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. Many health professional organizations have issued folic acid recommendations; follow them by discussing folic acid with your patients.
  •  Offer a written recommendation/prescription--Provide your patients with a written reminder for taking a multivitamin or folic acid supplement containing 400 micrograms of folic acid every day.
  •  Remind yourself--Include visible reminders such as posters in your office and examination rooms to recommend folic acid to women of childbearing age.
  •   Offer informative literature--Have literature on hand to give to your patients to reinforce the important preventive health benefits of folic acid and how they can readily meet the recommendations.
  •  Target and modify your folic acid message to high risk groups--Identify the high risk groups you serve in your practice (such as Hispanic women born in Mexico). Have Spanish literature available.
  • Choose a spokesperson or family to promote folic acid--Identify a local family who has experienced an NTD-affected pregnancy to act as spokespeople for the cause.
  •  Keep current on folic acid--Become aware of current information on emerging health benefits of folic acid in professional journals as well as what your patients are reading about folic acid in consumer literature. Be prepared to answer questions but be the first one to bring up the subject of folic acid with your patients.

Health professional

Did you know? Eighty nine percent of women who do not take vitamins indicated that if their health provider counseled them about the benefits they would probably take it.

Although advances in fetal surgery for spina bifida are encouraging and provide hope for affected babies and their families, primary prevention should be underscored and can help many such families avoid the heartache of experiencing an NTD.

More Information

Health professionals