Folic Acid Supplements Reduce Low-Birth-Weight Baby Risk

Taking folic acid supplements prior to pregnancy can significantly reduce the risk of offspring being small for gestational age at birth.

Taking folic acid supplements prior to pregnancy can significantly reduce the risk of offspring being small for gestational age (SGA) at birth, suggests a study published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology on November 26, 2014.

Of the 108,525 pregnancies analyzed in the systematic review, 84.9% had taken folic acid during pregnancy. Among those pregnancies, the time of supplementation commencement was recorded in 39,416 pregnancies, of which folic acid was initiated before conception in 25.5%.

While the researchers found that postconception folic acid had no significant effect on SGA rates, supplementation started before conception reduced the prevalence of SGA births substantially. Additionally, the authors discovered that the highest rate of SGA births occurred among pregnancies in which no folic acid had been taken at any point.

Therefore, the researchers concluded, “supplementation with folic acid significantly reduces the risk of SGA at birth, but only if commenced preconceptually independent of other risk factors.”

"Increased uptake of folic acid prior to pregnancy and throughout the first trimester could have significant public health benefits, given the poor outcomes associated with SGA babies,” noted study co-author Khaled Ismail in a press release. “New strategies are therefore vital to improve the lives of both mothers and babies."