National Folic Acid Awareness Week - First Week in January


National Folic Acid Awareness Week seeks to spread awareness about the importance of folic acid. The observance takes place every year during the first week in January. It is especially crucial for pregnant women as folic acid helps to prevent some kinds of congenital disabilities.

Folic acid is a type of B vitamin called vitamin B9. Folic acid helps the body produce and maintain new cells. It also helps prevent changes to DNA that may lead to cancer. Doctors highly recommend that women who are planning to become pregnant, or who already are pregnant, to get plenty of folic acid. The following foods provide excellent sources of folic acid:

  • Dried beans
  • Peas
  • Lentils
  • Oranges
  • Whole wheat products
  • Broccoli
  • Beets
  • Spinach

Even when eating these foods, however, many women do not receive the recommended amount of folic acid. Most women should get 400 micrograms of folic acid a day. Pregnant women should get 600 micrograms. Additionally, when breastfeeding, mothers should get 500 micrograms. Most physicians recommend that women take a folic acid supplement. Getting the proper amount of folic acid can prevent up to 70% of serious congenital disabilities that affect the brain and spine. These types of defects are called neural tube defects. Two of the most common types of neural tube defects are spina bifida and anencephaly.

Each year, 3,000 pregnancies in the United States are affected by neural tube defects. Worldwide, 300,000 babies are born with neural tube defects each year. According to the CDC, increasing folic acid intake can prevent up to 210,000 babies from being born with this type of defect.

HOW TO OBSERVE #NationalFolicAcidAwarenessWeek

The National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN) promotes the week by hosting a variety of events. These events aim to spread awareness about the role of folic acid in preventing neural tube defects. To participate:

  • Research the importance of taking folic acid
  • Learn more about neural tube defects
  • Commit to eating more foods containing folic acid
  • Develop recipes containing high amounts of folic acid
  • Talk to your doctor to see whether you need a folic acid supplement

To spread awareness, share #NationalFolicAcidAwarenessWek on social media.


This special week has always been held in January during Birth Defects Prevention Month.

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