USPSTF Again Recommends Folic Acid to Help Prevent Birth Defects

Evidence shows supplements reduce the risk of neural tube defects

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has reiterated its recommendation that all women planning to or who could become pregnant should take a daily supplement containing 400 to 800 mcg of folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects.  The USPSTF issued a similar recommendation in 2009.

The USPSTF is providing an opportunity for public comment on this draft “A” recommendation and the companion draft evidence review until June 6, 2016. All comments will be considered as the task force develops its final recommendation and final evidence review.

 Neural tube defects, in which the brain or spinal cord does not develop properly in a baby, can occur early in a pregnancy, even before a woman knows she is pregnant. Taking folic acid before and during pregnancy can help protect against neural tube defects.

Folic acid is found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, such as leafy greens, broccoli, and orange juice. Additionally, many foods such as flour, cereals, and breads are fortified with folic acid. However, even with food fortification, most women do not get the recommended dose of 400 mcg of folic acid per day.

“The task force reviewed the evidence and found that by taking a daily folic acid supplement, women who are planning to or who may become pregnant can reduce the risk of this serious type of birth defect,” says USPSTF member Alex R. Kemper, MD, MPH, a board-certified pediatrician and professor of pediatrics at Duke University Medical School.

The draft recommendation statement has been posted for public comment on the USPSTF website at Comments can be submitted from May 10 through June 6, 2016.

Sources: USPSTF; May 10, 2016; USPSTF recommendation; May 2009.