Why the Duchess of Cambridge Should Be Talking About Folic Acid

Kate and William
Kate and William

It's common knowledge that most birth defects affecting the brain or spinal cord in babies can be avoided by boosting levels of folate (vitamin B9) during pregnancy. And if you're looking to become pregnant, you know to start taking your pre-natal vitamins right away.

Knowing that, there's rather shocking news out of Great Britain: a large study of expectant moms in the country (nearly 500,000!) has revealed that less than one in three of them are taking this advice, with most avoiding folic acid and the essential supplements while pregnant. Even worse, the study found that almost half the women who had experience with previous pregnancies where there was a neural birth defect were still omitting folic acid from their diet, and only 51 percent were taking supplements.

Related: 10 folic acid-rich foods for pregnancy

Most birth defects, like spina bifida (a neural tube defect involving the spinal column), can be prevented by taking supplements. While spina bifida can be rectified through surgery, often nerves have already been damaged, which can lead to paralysis, incontinence, and loss of skin sensation. A terrible disease made more terrible because it could have been prevented. And here's another bizarre fact: while folic acid fortification of flour is mandatory in more than 70 countries (including the United States), the UK still does not have the policy.

Call me crazy, but I think this would make an excellent platform for the Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (aka Prince William's wife). As a new mother, she is now more than ever in tune with a woman's pregnancy and the well-being of children. And it seems that for whatever reason, there is a lack of knowledge on the benefits of folic acid consumption in England. I think she'd do a wonderful job of championing a public service campaign directed at women considering becoming pregnant and throughout their pregnancy.

Knowledge is power, and so much more. What do you think, Duchess Kate?

For 7 surprising sources of folic acid, visit BabyZone!

-By Ellen Schmidt

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