January is National Birth Defects Prevention Awareness Month. Daily consumption of the B vitamin folic acid beginning before pregnancy is vital, in prevention of birth defects of the brain and spine known as neural tube defects (NTDs), including spina bifida. Women of childbearing age and need to be informed that folic acid promotes good health before, during, and after pregnancy. These deformities can occur in the early weeks following conception, often before a woman even knows she is pregnant, that is why regular consumption of this vitamin is important. The neural tube is the part of a developing baby that becomes the brain and spinal chord. Hispanic women are about 20 percent more likely to have a child with a neural tube defect (NTD) than non-Hispanic women. All women who can become pregnant should consume at least 400 mcg of folic acid every day. You can either take a multivitamin, or simply have a serving of cereal which has the recommended daily amount. If you’re not a cereal lover you can consume foods that are high in folate from beans, peas and lentils, oranges and orange juice, asparagus and broccoli, and dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach, and mustard greens. For more information you can visit CDC’s Folic Acid Homepage.