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Br J Gen Pract. 1997 Oct;47(423):635-7.

Factors affecting the use of folic acid supplements in pregnant women in Glasgow.

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  • 1Stobhill Hospital, Glasgow.



Use of folic acid supplements preconception, and during the first trimester, is associated with a reduced incidence of first and subsequent neural tube defects. The Department of Health guidelines recommend the use of folic acid supplements by all women planning a pregnancy.


To ascertain the proportion using folic acid supplements and the factors affecting their use.


Questionnaires were distributed postpartum to the 515 women who delivered normal babies in three maternity units in Glasgow over a four-week period.


Forms were completed by 487 (95%) women. Only 57% took supplements at some point during their pregnancy, and only 21% took them before conception. Failure to take supplements was significantly associated with unplanned pregnancy, younger age, and previous pregnancies. Lack of awareness of the potential benefits associated with folic acid use was the commonest reason cited by women for not taking supplements.


Increased health education through health care professionals and mass media campaigns can improve awareness and thereby increase the use of supplements in planned pregnancies. However, 42% of women in our study had unplanned pregnancies. Intake of folic acid supplements in this group can only be increased by improvements in dietary intake within the population as a whole, and by fortification of commonly ingested foods.

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