Folic Acid Fortification Update
Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Scotland (SBH Scotland) has long advocated folic acid fortification in flour. Our Chief Executive, Andrew H D Wynd, said, “We are happy to hear that Scottish Government are now urging UK Ministers to move the fortification process forward. The recent Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) letter to Health Ministers highlighted serious concerns arising from the delay in fortifying flour so the UK need to be pushing for measures to be put into place to increase the folate status of women. In Scotland it is thought that nearly 50% of pregnancies are unplanned and mother’s to be will not have increased folic acid intake prior to conception. SBH Scotland believe that mandatory fortification will make a significant difference to the many planned and unplanned pregnancies diagnosed with Neural Tube Defects, of which spina bifida is the most common.”
He continues, “Additionally, if the mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid is not proceeding in the short term, then advice must be put in place to ensure that woman who are sexually active and of child bearing age are aware of the importance taking folic acid prior to conception and not once pregnancy is confirmed, which is the norm at present.”
Scotland specific issues…
Scotland has more live births per head of population with spina bifida than anywhere else in the UK. Each week in Scotland one pregnancy is affected by spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus. Possibly due to religious and cultural differences, only 50% of pregnancies are terminated in Scotland as compared with 80% in the rest of the UK.
Taking folic acid supplements, at the correct recommended dose prior to conception, could prevent over 70% of these pregnancies from being affected and reduce both the number of those born with the condition and the number of pregnancies terminated.
Children born with spina bifida often have paralysis in the lower limbs, urological, neurological and orthopaedic problems which often become more significant throughout life. Fortification of flour would reduce the number of babies born with this life-long disability.
Parents in Scotland are offered impartial and non-judgmental advice by the SBH Scotland to enable them to make informed decisions about their pregnancy. Whatever the final decision, SBH Scotland will always be there for support and advice whenever needed. If you are affected by any of the issues associated with spina bifida or hydrocephalus, you can call the SBH Scotland Family Support Service helpline on 08459 11 11 12 or visit www.sbhscotland.org.uk
Further details on Folic Acid