New report: Spina Bifida is most common neural tube birth defect affecting Utah infants


    Spina Bifida is most common neural tube birth defect affecting Utah infants. (Photo: Utah Department of Health)

    A new report out by the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) is showing the most common neural tube birth defect in Utah babies is Spina Bifida.

    And in an effort to help educate women on the importance of taking multivitamins, especially folic acid, UDOH is giving away free multivitamins to 500 non-pregnant women aged 18-44 living in Utah during January.

    Neural tube birth defects impact the brain, spine, and spinal cord in early pregnancy.

    UDOH's data shows that most women have heard of folic acid and know about its importance during pregnancy, only 385 of Utah women between 18-44 take a vitamin with folic acid daily.

    “Neural tube defects often occur before a woman even realizes she is pregnant. That’s why it’s important for women of child bearing age to take a vitamin with 400mcg of folic acid once a day to prevent neural tube defects,” Maria Huynh, epidemiologist with the UDOH Utah Birth Defect Network said. “Folic acid is a B9 vitamin that helps with growth and development. Folate, naturally found in leafy greens, has been mentioned as an alternative for folic acid; however, it’s difficult for women to get the daily amount of folate through food alone.”

    Here are some of the findings from UDOH's new report:

    • Birth defects affect approximately 1,100 births every year in Utah and are one of the leading causes of infant mortality, accounting for one in five infant deaths.
    • An average of 22 Utah infants are born with a neural tube defect each year. These infants may face a lifetime of debilitating illness, long-term disability, or even death as a result of the birth defect.
    • 750 pregnancies were affected by a neural tube defect in Utah from 1995-2015; 62.5% of these pregnancies resulted in a live birth.
    • Spina bifida is the most common type of neural tube defect in Utah affecting 4.0 infants per 10,000 live births, followed by anencephaly (2.3 infants per 10,000 live births), and encephalocele (1.0 infants per 10,000 live births).

    Women at highest risk for having an infant born with a neural tube defect included:

    • Women who were Hispanic or Latina
    • Women who were obese (pre-pregnancy BMI ? 30)
    • Women who had no prenatal care

    As part of National Birth Defect Prevention Month, women are encouraged todo the following five things to "increase the chance of a healthy pregnancy and lessen the chance of their baby being born with a birth defect:"

    1. Take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
    2. Visit with a healthcare provider before stopping or starting any medication.
    3. Become up-to-date with all vaccines, including the flu shot.
    4. Before you get pregnant, try to reach a healthy weight.
    5. Avoid harmful substances during pregnancy, such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

    You can read the full report here.


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