Knowledge about folic acid supplementation in women presenting for antenatal care

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The incidence of neural tube defects (NTDs) in Ireland has increased in recent years. This study examines knowledge about folic acid (FA) supplementation for the prevention of NTDs among women presenting for antenatal care.


Women were recruited at their convenience in the first trimester after sonographic confirmation of an ongoing singleton pregnancy. A detailed questionnaire was completed under the supervision of a research dietitian. Clinical and socio-demographic details were collected.


Of the 587 women studied, 96% took FA during early pregnancy. Of these, 56.4% cited brain/spinal development or the prevention of brain/spinal defects, spina bifida or NTDs as the reason for taking FA. Multivariate analysis showed that women who were experiencing material deprivation or who were living in Ireland <5 years were least likely to be knowledgeable about the benefits of FA supplementation (P<0.05 for both). Over half (57.1%) of the women did not take FA preconceptionally. The main reason reported for not supplementing preconceptionally was that the woman did not expect to get pregnant (76.4%). Over onethird of women (35%), however, reported that they did not know they needed to take FA before becoming pregnant.


These results highlight the need for a renewed public health campaign in Ireland about the importance of FA. As well as focusing on women who have recently come to live in Ireland, this campaign needs focus on women living in deprivation, as these are the women most at risk of having inadequate knowledge about the importance of FA in improving pregnancy outcomes.

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