Folic Acid Supplementation Helps Ensure Full-Term Pregnancy
A healthy pregnancy begins before conception. Health conditions, medications, and dietary considerations, as well as habits and lifestyles of hopeful mothers can have an impact on the health of their unborn children. By addressing health issues and knowing the risk factors before becoming pregnant, would-be mothers can prevent problems that might later affect their babies.
Almost 12 percent of babies born in the United States are born prematurely (before the completion of 37 weeks of pregnancy), although full-term pregnancies last about 40 weeks. These babies are at greater risk of having breathing difficulties, learning difficulties, and developmental disabilities in addition to being less likely to survive.
Finding a way to prevent premature birth could improve the health of thousands of babies annually. Although there is currently no sure way to prevent premature birth, studies have indicated that mothers who consume lower amounts of folic acid may experience shorter pregnancies. To test this theory, doctors from the University of Texas followed the progress of nearly 35,000 pregnancies during which a number of women had taken folic acid supplements for at least 12 months prior to becoming pregnant, while others took the supplement for shorter periods of time, and still others took no supplements at all. Of the total, over 1,600 of the expectant mothers gave birth to their babies prematurely.
The results of the study revealed that taking folic acid supplements for a least one year prior to conception reduced spontaneous premature birth occurring between 20 and 28 weeks by 70 percent, and also reduced premature births between 28 and 32 weeks by 50 percent. These findings were made in comparison to the rate of premature births resulting from mothers who did not take the supplements. Folic acid appeared to have no effect on births occurring between 32 and 37 weeks. In addition, no reduction in premature births was seen in those women who took the supplements for periods less than one year. The results of the study were published in the journal PLoS Medicine.
Women who plan to become pregnant have long been advised to take folic acid daily, or at the very least, after stopping contraception and continuing through a minimum of 12 weeks of pregnancy. This is recommended to reduce the risk of birth defects including spina bifida and anencephaly, which are known neural tube defects (NTDs).
According to researcher Dr. Radek Bukowski women are advised to take 0.4mg of folic acid daily, which is the same amount advised for prevention of NTDs, well before they plan to become pregnant. He held that folic acid most likely reduces the risk of infection, which is a common cause of premature births.
The opinion of some experts is that mass medication could prevent up to 150 cases of spina bifida annually, as well as provide better general health for millions of adults. The results of the new study could lead to renewed appeals for folic acid to be added to bread. - (HealthNews)