Women not consuming enough folic acid before pregnancy – study

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Women in Malta are not consuming enough folic acid before pregnancy, researchers found out.

In an article published by the Malta Medical School Gazette, researchers from the Directorate for the Research on Health said that folic acid helps in the reduction of birth defects. They found out that only around one fourth of mothers in Malta take this form of vitamins before getting pregnant.

Neural tube defects (NTDs) are serious birth defects that result of abnormalities in the development of the neural tube in advanced stages of pregnancy. The defects usually affect the spine or the brain.

Research shows that when one uses folic acid before getting pregnant and during the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy, the amount of NTDs is significantly reduced.

In Malta NTDs surface in 10 out of 10,000 births. According to the researchers, this rate can be reduced to around five to six births from 10,000 if women start consuming folic acid from before conception.

In 2015 there were 4,385 women that gave birth in Malta. From these women, 1,125 (25.7%) said they consumed folic acid prior to getting pregnant. The researchers explained that the number is way too low. They went on to say that doctors have been talking about the importance of folic acid consumption since the 90s. However, this low rate is not experienced only in Malta.

According to researchers, health care professionals in Malta generally follow practices in the UK. According to NICE, women that are within the age bracket where they can get pregnant, should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before a pregnancy and during the first 12 weeks. They should do so even if they eat food that contains folic acid.

The research also found out that 1,216 from 4,100 pregnancies (29.6%) were not planned.

Who were those who did not consume folic acid before their pregnancy?

  • Mothers with low level education
  • Unmarried women
  • Women that are under 25
  • Women that are not Maltese or from Europe

The research also found that only 7% of women under 25 years of age consumed folic acid before their pregnancy. Researchers quoted a study that found out that there are family doctors that have no clue as to when one should start consuming folic acid before the pregnancy.

The researchers were Miriam Gatt MD, MSC HSCR (Sheffield), Marika Borg MD, Elaine Gatt Mercieca Diploma SRM, and Neville Calleja MSc, PhD.

You can read the full article from here.