An estimated 1 million U.S. women taking birth control pills become pregnant each year because they do not take the contraceptives properly. And many of them do not consume the recommended amount of folic acid to prevent neural tube defects, in which the tube that later becomes the brain and central nervous system does not close properly.
About 4,000 U.S. pregnancies per year involve a neural tube defect, experts said. The most common types are spina bifida, which causes paralysis and other disability, and anencephaly, in which the brain fails to completely form. Anencephaly is always fatal. U.S. health officials recommend women capable of becoming pregnant consume 400 micrograms of folic acid per day through supplements or diet to prevent neural tube defects. Because the neural tube closes about four weeks after conception � before many women know they are pregnant � folic acid needs to be taken before a woman conceives to be beneficial.
Members unanimously endorsed the concept of combining birth control pills with folic acid, but they said more research was needed to address various concerns. Some worried women who take folic acid supplements might get too much of the nutrient if they also took the combination pill. High doses of folic acid can mask a vitamin B deficiency, but the company argued that problem afflicts mostly the elderly and was rare among reproductive-age women.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.