Folic acid is important for optimal fetal development. Higher levels of folic acid in the body at the time of conception may reduce the risk of neural tube defects and other fetal complications. Researchers from the University Women’s Hospital of Basel in Switzerland recently published a study in the International Journal of Women’s Health claiming women in their reproductive years are not aware of the importance of folic acid intake prior to conception.
Women between 15 and 49 years of age were asked to complete a questionnaire between Nov 2009 and Dec 2009. The questionnaires were given to women from 18 different countries. Researchers were able to collect questionnaire answers from more than 22,000 women. About 58% of the study participants had birthed at least once. Thirty-eight percent of women reported the first pregnancy was not planned and almost 60% of women chose to stop taking birth control to achieve pregnancy without first consulting with their physician.
While 70% of women knew what folic acid was only 40% knew it was beneficial during pregnancy. When asked about the diseases or conditions folic acid helped prevent, only 17% mentioned neural tube defects.
Source: Bitzer J, von Stenglin A, Bannemerschult R. Women's awareness and periconceptional use of folic acid: data from a large European survey. Int J Womens Health. 2013 Apr 26;5:201-13. doi: 10.2147/IJWH.S40149. Print 2013.