Pregnancy and Folate
The need for folate, one of the B vitamins, is critical during the first few weeks of pregnancy. Since about 50% of pregnancies are not planned, many women do not even realize that they are pregnant during this formative time. A folate deficiency may cause neural tube defects. Neural tube defects include anencephaly, in which most of the brain is missing and spina bifida where a piece of the spinal cord protrudes from the spinal column causing paralysis of parts of the lower body. These defects affect 1 to 2 of every 1000 babies born yearly. All women of child bearing years should consume foods rich in folate. Excellent sources of folate include green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, fortified breads, legumes, and orange juice.