American women have been taking folic acid for years—in an effort to reduce the risk of birth defects like spina bifida in children. Now, there's new evidence that folic acid supplements can prevent heart defects in children.
While folic acid supplements have been a standard recommended part of prenatal care in the United States for years, on the practice hasn't caught on in every country. In one of those countries, the Netherlands, researchers found that among women who had already given birth to a baby with a heart defect, those who then took a 400-milligram supplement of folic acid were 20 percent less likely to have another child with a heart defect—and their risk was 26 percent lower than the general population. For some specific heart defects, the risk was 40 percent lower than the general population.