Dubai: The Dubai Health Authority’s (DHA) Latifa women and children hospital, announced the implementation of a new folic acid consumption guideline for all married women of child-bearing age to reduce the incidence of Neural Tube Defects (NTD), which are birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.

Implementing the guideline will reaffirm the DHA’s existing efforts in ensuring the adequate prescription of folic acid for women of child-bearing age. It will also complement the DHA’s existing efforts of launching awareness campaigns to spread awareness on the importance of folic acid consumption.

As part of the new guideline DHA doctors will prescribe 400mcg (0.4mg) of folic acid to all married women of childbearing age, folic acid tablet should be taken before and during pregnancy to lower the risk of NTDs.

Because more than half the pregnancy are unplanned and as these birth defect occur very early in pregnancy, the new guideline recommends that new mothers should continue to take the folic acid after delivery in case they have an unplanned pregnancy.

NTDs are birth defects of the brain spine and the spinal cord. They happen in the first month of pregnancy. The two most common neural tube defects are spina bifida and anencephaly.

Spina bifida can occur anywhere along the spine if the neural tube doesn’t close all the way. Where the neural tube doesn’t close all the way the backbone that protect the spinal cord doesn’t form and close as it should  This often results in damage to the spinal cord and nerves.

Babies with anencephaly are usually either stillborn or die shortly after birth.

Dr Muna Tahlak, CEO of Latifa Hospital said that the guideline was introduced to reduce the incidence of NTD, which has become a major problem that affects both patients & parents physically, psychologically and financially .

Dr Tahlak stated that the Paediatric Surgery Department at Latifa Hospital has launched ongoing folic acid awareness programme to shed light on its pivotal role  in reducing NTDS not only among women of child baring age but also among health professionals.

Dr Tahlak explained that DHA doctors have already been prescribing folic acid to women of child-bearing age and launching awareness campaigns on the issue, she stressed that introducing the guideline will further help ensure that all women of child bearing age are being prescribed the medication.

Tahlak also revealed that Latifa Hospital has an equipped centre to conduct fetal surgery for mothers whose children have been diagnosed with Spina bifida. Fetal surgery, is a delicate surgical procedure where fetal surgeons open the uterus and close the opening in the baby's back while they are still in the womb.

She added that mothers whose babies have been diagnosed with Spina bifida can contact the hospital to schedule a consultation.

Dr Ghadir Jaber – Consultant Paediatric Surgeon at Latifa women and children Hospital said that the awareness programmes were launched to ensure that all health professionals abide by the guideline and recommend adequate consumption of folic acid as well as consistent information to all the married women of child bearing age in order to reinforce the folic acid awareness amongst the Dubai community.

“Taking folic acid before pregnancy is vital, this allows it to build up in your body to a level that gives the most protection to your future baby against NTD’s. international statistics found that up to 70% of NTDS can be prevented by preconception folic acid consumption. Hence all married women of childbearing age should consume 400mcg of folic acid daily. A higher dose of folic acid supplementation is needed for high-risk women such as women with history of NTD or who previously had a NTD affected pregnancy.

Dr. Ghadir said that the DHA constantly conducts educational sessions for high school and university students to raise the folic acid awareness amongst the Dubai Community because many women are still unaware of the importance of folic acid; putting thousands of pregnancies at risk.

She advises all married women of childbearing age to take folic acid daily and to eat folate rich food (such as dark green vegetables like Broccoli, spinach, dried legumes chickpeas and lentils).  make it a daily habit, it’s never too early Dr Ghadir Jaber concluded.

For further information, please contact:
Kamakshi Gupta and Noor Nazzal
Communications Analysts- Media Dept.
Dubai Health Authority
+9714 2197455

About the Dubai Health Authority:

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) was created, in June 2007, by Law 13 issued by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, with an expanded vision to include strategic oversight for the complete health sector in Dubai and enhance private sector engagement. 

Prior to the establishment of the DHA, the Department of Health and Medical Services, which was established in 1973, was the functioning authority that almost exclusively focused on health service delivery.

In May 2018, H.H Sheikh Mohammed, issued Law No. (6) of 2018 of the DHA. The new Law further enables the DHA to achieve its objectives including regulating medical services in Dubai, enhancing competiveness and transparency, improving medical services and products based on international best practices and achieving the sector’s objectives according to approved strategic plans.

H.H Sheikh Mohammed also issued Decree No. 17 of 2018 establishing subsidiaries of the DHA: the Dubai Healthcare Corporation and Dubai Health Insurance Corporation to further enhance healthcare services in Dubai and enable DHA to fulfil its responsibilities and obligations.

Three new strategic sectors were also added as part of the decree; they include Strategy and Corporate Development, Health Regulation, and Shared Support Services.

In addition to overseeing the health sector for the Emirate of Dubai, the DHA also focuses on providing services through DHA healthcare facilities including Latifa, Dubai, Rashid and Hatta Hospitals, its 12 primary healthcare centres, 17 medical fitness centres and its 6 specialty centres.

For more information, visit DHA’s website: 

© Press Release 2019

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