Research Improves Lives of Children with Birth Defects

University of North Carolina (UNC) Charlotte researcher
Cynthia H. Cassell has devoted her career to improving the lives of families
and children affected by birth defects. Because most birth defects occur in the
first trimester of pregnancy, the March of Dimes and other organizations focus
on fetal and maternal health stress prevention measures to reduce the number of
babies born with birth defects, low birth weight, and/or premature.

Knowledge of birth defect prevention measures is
widespread and well-proven, yet a surprising number of women are not exposed to
the information prior to and during pregnancy, when it is most beneficial. For
example, simply taking a vitamin can help prevent neural tube defects, like
spina bifida, which are among the most severe type of birth defects.

“We’ve found women taking 400 micrograms of
folic acid during their child bearing years and into early pregnancy can
prevent up to 70% of cases of children being born with spina bifida, a major
birth defect in which the spine doesn’t develop correctly,” Cassell,
an assistant professor of public health sciences, said in a news release.

Folic acid, found in leafy green vegetables, orange
juice and fortified grains, is a “magic bullet,” according to Anna
Bess Brown, director of the North Carolina chapter of the March of Dimes.

“We’re campaigning across the nation to
encourage all women of childbearing age to take a vitamin pill every day,”
she said.

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