ABUJA – Dr Kunle Otuneye, Paediatrician at the National Hospital, Abuja, on Tuesday said regular consumption of folic acid could help prevent birth defects.
Otuneye told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that congenital birth defect, such as spina bifida and hydrocephalous, was a leading cause of child mortality in Nigeria.
Spina bifida is the most common birth defect that can be prevented with folic acid.
It causes the baby’s spine to not form correctly and it cannot be cured.
The expert, therefore, advised women of child bearing age to cultivate the habit of taking folic acid as it could prevent birth defects.
He explained that children with spina bifida always have some form of paralysis and problems controlling their bowel and bladder functions, saying they undergo a lifetime of surgeries and many health issues.
“Two other types of neural tube defects affect the brain. With anencephaly, the brain does not form properly.
“These pregnancies are often miscarried, but if the infants are delivered, the babies die shortly after birth.
“Encephalocele is an opening of the skull, which allows parts of the brain and brain membrane to protrude through the opening.
“The severity of encephalocele depends on its location.’’
Otuneye said hydrocephalus can be inherited genetically or may be associated with developmental disorders, including spina bifida (congenital defect of the spine) and encephalocele (hernia of the brain).
“If the hydrocephalus and spina bifida runs in a family, the pregnant woman should be monitored by medical experts to prevent complications for the mother and the baby.
“Many women in the country are still ignorant on the causes of the defects, there should be increased awareness on the birth defects as people see those children as monsters,’’ he said.
Otuneye said the children with the birth defects need multiple surgeries and rehabilitation, and in many cases, this is more than the parents can afford.
He said women need folic acid within the first three weeks of pregnancy, saying that is when the infant’s neural tube is formed.
“Women are still encouraged to take vitamin supplements with folic acid and to eat a variety of healthy foods if they may become pregnant.
“Foods fortified with folic acid provide a way for women to consume more folic acid just by eating what they normally eat every day,’’ Otuneye said. (NAN)