Public Health Dietitian Andrea Basu is urging pregnant women and those trying for a baby to ensure they are getting enough folic acid, following concerns the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the ability for families to access vitamins.
Last month Andrea, and colleagues at the dietetics department in the Wrexham Maelor, launched a local project to increase access to Healthy Start, a national scheme offering eligible families access to free vitamins in Wrexham and Flintshire.
Andrea is now raising awareness of the importance for mums-to-be to take the right amount of folic acid.
Pregnant women and those trying for a baby should take a daily supplement of folic acid containing 400 micrograms before and during pregnancy.
Andrea said: “Women planning a pregnancy and those who are pregnant are advised to take a daily folic acid supplement, yet many women may not be taking up the folic acid supplements in pregnancy when in some cases they could be entitled to receive them for free”.
“Women and their families hear about recommended vitamins and the Healthy Start scheme through their Midwife or Health Visitor, but we know the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on the ability of families to access the vitamins.
“Folic acid is needed to make genetic material (DNA) within every body cell. Having enough of this vitamin in the early stages of pregnancy could help to reduce the risk of developing spine defects such as spina bifida. Taking a supplement as well as eating foods naturally rich in folic acid like green leafy vegetables and including fortified foods such as breakfast cereals. is recommended to be sure that pregnant women take in enough each day.
“Folic acid also works with vitamin B12 to help form healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body.”
The Healthy Start vitamins are ideal for pregnant mums to take as they include the right amount of folic acid and vitamin D needed to help build and maintain healthy bones.
These vitamins are available free to eligible women in the following pharmacies across Wrexham and Flintshire. Healthy Start vouchers can be taken direct to any of these pharmacies.
Wrexham Rowlands Pharmacies in Brynteg, Cefn Mawr, Chapel Street, Hightown, Johnstown, and St Georges Crescent, and Flintshire Rowlands Pharmacies in Buckley, Flint, Holywell (Coleshill), Queensferry and Morrison’s Pharmacies in Connah’s Quay and Saltney.
Andrea added: “For women not eligible to receive the free Healthy Start vitamins, folic acid supplements are very important to take and are widely available to purchase across a range of pharmacies and supermarkets.”
The Healthy Start scheme also provides eligible families with weekly food vouchers to spend on fresh, frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables, fresh, dried and tinned pulses, and milk. Plus, vitamin drops for babies and children.
To check whether you, or your family are eligible to receive the vouchers visit www.healthystart.nhs.uk