Study shows two-thirds of women don’t take folic acid prior to pregnancy

It has long been known that taking folic acid supplements prior to pregnancy can prevent spina bifida and other birth defects of the brain, spine, or spinal cord. However, a recent study from Queen Mary University of London shows that only 1 in 3 women have taken folic acid supplements before becoming pregnant.

The study not only showed a decrease in the number of women taking the supplement in recent years (35% of women in 1999-2001 versus 31% in 2011-2012), but also showed strong variations between ethnic groups (35% of Caucasian women reported taking the supplements compared to 17% of Afro-Caribbean women, 20% of South Asian women, and 25% of East Asian women).

The study also showed an increase in the proportion of women who started taking folic acid supplements only after discovering they were pregnant (from 45% to 62%). Unfortunately the preventative benefits of folic acid are only effective if the supplements are taken before pregnancy.

While the U.S. has introduced a mandatory folic fortification into foods such as cereal, bread, and pasta, it is still recommended that women attempting to get pregnant seek out additional supplementation. If you are a woman who is actively trying to become pregnant, consider taking a prenatal vitamin that includes folic acid to prevent potential miscarriages or serious birth defects that could lead to pregnancy termination.