News & Events

SIHF Healthcare Educates Expectant Mothers About Folic Acid and Birth Defects

January 10, 2018

SIHF Healthcare is dedicated to educating moms-to-be, making sure their pregnancy is a healthy one. Since January is Folic Acid Awareness and Birth Defect Prevention Month, the board-certified obstetricians and gynecologists at SIHF Healthcare want to share some information about folic acid and birth defects. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 1 in every 33 babies in the United States are born with birth defects each year. Birth defects can occur at any point during a pregnancy, but most develop within the first three months. Factors that can increase the risk for birth defects include having a family history, or being older than 35 years of age at delivery. For women who are pregnant, or plan to become pregnant, an SIHF Healthcare provider can recommend ways to decrease this risk, such as taking folic acid.

Folic acid, a form of vitamin B9, is vital to proper cell growth. It promotes the production of normal red bloods cells, prevents types of anemia, reduces the risk of preeclampsia, and is essential for the functioning, production, and repair of DNA. Folic acid is particularly important during pregnancy, because it aids in rapid cell growth of the placenta and significantly lowers the risk of potential birth defects.

Folic acid is known to specifically lower the risk of babies being born with Neural Tube Defects (NTDs), which affect the spinal cord and the brain, leading to defects such as spina bifida or anencephaly. NTDs are reported to affect over 3,000 pregnancies a year in the United States. “Getting enough folic acid, before and during early pregnancy, is critical in reducing the risk of NTDs,” said Dr. Darryl Engeljohn, OB/GYN physician at SIHF Healthcare, 7210 West Main in Belleville. “Since these types of defects often develop before a woman even knows she is pregnant, regular folic acid intake is more essential in prenatal health than many women realize.” Risk of other birth defects, such as cleft palate, cleft lip, and heart defects, are said to also decrease with use of folic acid.

The United States Public Health Service and the CDC recommend women who are pregnant, or who plan to become pregnant, take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. It is important to keep up with the daily dosage, since birth defects usually develop within the first few weeks of pregnancy. This intake can come from folic acid tablets, a multi-vitamin which includes folic acid, or fortified foods such as pasta, cereal, or grains.

To ensure stress-free, comfortable pregnancies, SIHF Healthcare is proud to offer the Healthy Start program to expectant mothers. This free, integrative health program aims to give babies the healthiest start to life. It connects women with a Healthy Start coach, schedules pregnancy/parenting classes, provides referrals for services, and assists with transportation to and from appointments. For more information on the Healthy Start program, call 618-646-2505 or visit to schedule an appointment at one of the convenient SIHF Healthcare locations!


About SIHF Healthcare
SIHF Healthcare operates a network of more than 30 health centers across 11 Illinois counties with more than 160 medical providers who deliver comprehensive health care services including: adult, family, women’s health, pediatrics, dental services, behavioral health, and population health services. As one of the largest Federally Qualified Health Center networks in the country, SIHF Healthcare is devoted to leading individuals and communities to their healthiest lifestyle regardless of their ability to pay. For more information, visit