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J Public Health Med. 1999 Jun;21(2):145-9.

Determinants of folic acid knowledge and use among antenatal women.

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  • 1Health Information Unit, Eastern Health Board, Dr Steeven's Hospital, Dublin, Republic of Ireland.



Although recommendations on folic acid use were issued by health authorities in a number of countries in the early 1990s, uptake of peri-conceptional folic acid is still disappointingly low. Regardless of food fortification policies, folic acid promotion will probably be required in most countries to optimize folate levels among women of child-bearing age. The aim of this study was to examine folic acid knowledge and use, and their determinants among antenatal women in the east of Ireland in 1997.


Three hundred antenatal women attending their initial booking appointment in three Dublin maternity hospitals were surveyed. An interviewer-administered questionnaire was used with questions on folic acid knowledge and use, and demographic and obstetric questions. A univariate analysis of data was undertaken followed by a multivariate analysis using logistic regression to determine factors predicting knowledge and use of folic acid.


Seventy-six per cent of respondents had heard of folic acid, 16 per cent had taken it before pregnancy and 51 per cent during pregnancy. Women who had planned their pregnancy, were married and were relatively affluent were significantly more likely to have heard of folic acid, to know that it could prevent neural tube defects and to have taken it peri-conceptionally. Less affluent women tended to use their general practitioner (GP) more as a source of information and advice than those who were better off. In multivariate analysis, marriage and planned pregnancy were important predictors of folic acid knowledge whereas planned pregnancy advice given before pregnancy and relative affluence were predictive of peri-conceptional use.


Many women know of folic acid but do not take it peri-conceptionally. Women may associate folic acid with pregnancy and less with pre-pregnancy. Greater emphasis on peri-conceptional use should improve folic acid uptake. Focusing on less affluent women for folic acid promotion by GPs and other primary care professionals is also important.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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