Women planning to become pregnant are advised to take a vitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid each day in order to reduce the risk of a birth defect called spina bifida in their babies should they become pregnant. A new study provides another reason for women to take vitamins: US researchers report that women who took multivitamins before becoming pregnant or during the first month of pregnancy had a 24% lower risk of having babies with heart defects. The researchers did not detect a reduced risk in women who started taking vitamins during the second or third month of pregnancy. The study findings suggest that most heart defects occur as the fetus develops in the first month of pregnancy. During pregnancy women need 600 mcg of folic acid each day from a supplement and foods such as spinach, lentils, orange juice, asparagus, artichokes and enriched whole grains.
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