My wife is 7 weeks pregnant, and she only found out she was pregnant 4 days ago.

I have heard that it's very important to have folate / folic acid in the first 4 weeks of pregnancy to reduce the chance of neural tube birth defects.

In this case the pregnancy was unexpected so by the time we found out it was too late to go back and ensure she had adequate folate.

We have a very balanced diet at home, with lots of fruit and vegetables, but I don't recall having a lot of leafy greens during those first 4 weeks. We had some chickpeas on 2-3 days of that time, but not every day.

What are the risks here?

asked 14 Jul '10, 06:45

Jimmy's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

I don't have any real reference so I haven't made this an answer, but our first child was un-planned and was fine, my wife was in a high risk group for the second (diabetic) and should have been advised by our GP to take large doses of folic acid before becoming pregnant, she wasn't and second child was fine, and the third was again un-planned and was fine. So i would conclude that the risk is not very big, especially if you have a healty diet.

(14 Jul '10, 12:07) pipthegeek

Your health care provider or a genetic counselor would be able to provide a more personalized response. When I was pregnant, I visited a genetic counselor and I was very impressed with the experience. Don't let anything below panic you until you first talk to a professional.

The CDC reports that spina bifida and anencephaly "occur in approximately 1 of every 1,000 pregnancies in the United States and in an estimated 300,000 newborns worldwide." They also have a page showing the Trends in Spina Bifida, United States, 1991 - 2005 along with some information on when folic acid started being recommended.

According to the March of Dimes, some people may be at increased risk. They include:

  • Couples that have already had a child/children with spina bifida.
  • A parent has spina bifida
  • Obesity
  • Poorly controlled diabetes
  • Treatment with anti-seizure medicine

The page also says that, "spina bifida and other NTDs [neural tube defects] occur more commonly in some ethnic groups than others. For example, NTDs are more common in Hispanics and Caucasians, and less common among Ashkenazi Jews, most Asian ethnic groups and African-Americans."


answered 15 Jul '10, 02:25

Kiesa's gravatar image

Kiesa ♦
accept rate: 26%


+1 "don't panic until you talk to a professionaal

(15 Jul '10, 03:20) K D

I was going to respond on a similar line as Kiesa. I would get in touch with a health professional and start taking a folic acid/Folate supplement today.

I found the article on Wikipedia quite informative about the benefits of Folic Acid in pregnancy. In particular a comment about a study (published by Milunski et al.)that found the prevalence had dropped from 3.5 to 0.9 defects per 1000 births. So even without taking folic supplement at any point in pregnancy. the risk is less than 3.5 per 1000 births.


answered 15 Jul '10, 03:29

K%20D's gravatar image

accept rate: 13%

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Asked: 14 Jul '10, 06:45

Seen: 3,963 times

Last updated: 15 Jul '10, 03:29