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Obstet Gynecol Surv. 2011 Apr;66(4):240-7. doi: 10.1097/OGX.0b013e318223614c.

Folic acid in obstetric practice: a review.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, St. George's Hospital, Tooting-London, United Kingdom.


Folic acid is one of the B complex vitamins and is now recognized as a major component of the periconceptional care of women in the reproductive age group. Deficiency of folic acid can lead to neural tube defects in the fetus and megaloblastic anemia in the mother. Due to its lower bioavailability from natural foods, many countries have adopted mandatory folic acid food fortification programs. Although these programs have been a public health triumph in reducing the burden of neural tube defects, there have been growing concerns about the role played by folic acid supplementation in the rising colon cancer rates over the past decade. The majority of the evidence available to date is reassuring, and until further long-term population as well as laboratory studies are completed, folic acid will continue to play a vital role in early pregnancy care. It is important for healthcare professionals to be aware of the recent evidence that has accumulated, suggesting higher folic acid requirements in certain groups of women and offer correct advice on the use of folic acid supplements. This review looks at some of the existing evidence on folic acid supplementation and summarizes the recommendations on the use of folic acid supplements by obstetricians, family physicians, and others providing prenatal care.


Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Family physicians.


After completing this CME activity, physicians should be better able to evaluate the need for folic acid supplementation in various patient groups to lower the risk of neural tube defects due to folate deficiency; recommend common, natural and fortified food sources rich in folic acid; and distinguish the effects of folate deficiency in the mother and fetus.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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