Pregnant women are recommended by their doctors to take folate during their pregnancy. Women take folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, supplements in order to prevent a number of birth related conditions which might include neural birth defects and premature birth. A previous 2008 US study indicated that taking folate for a year before giving birth can help prevent premature birth by as much as 70 percent. But a more recent study may show otherwise.
According to a study conducted by researchers among 73,000 Norwegian women from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, analysis of the data taken from the said study group did not show any indication that folate may have a preventive effect on premature birth. “[The] data do not support a protective effect of folate on spontaneous preterm delivery frequency, but folate does not seem to have an adverse effect on pregnancy either,” according to Dr. Verena Sengpiel, from the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Goteborg, Sweden and the author of the said study.
The data from the study were gathered and collected from 1999 to 2006. The researchers were able to identify 955 cases of spontaneous preterm births. A total of 18,075 women were also identified by the researchers for the control group. The participants provided information on their folic acid intake during the 17th, 22nd and 30th Week of their pregnancy. Dr. Sengpiel added that most Norwegian women are generally deficient in foliate since most foods available in the country are not fortified with the said nutrient as much as in the US. On average, Norwegian women get only about 250 micrograms of folate daily, compared to the recommended 400 micrograms daily folate intake.
The researchers divided the women into two groups based on the amount of dietary folate intake, either low or high. After checking the results, the researchers were not able to find any association between folate intake and the rate of premature birth in the study participants.
Despite the findings in the study, experts noted that it may not yet be that conclusive since there might also be other factors that may have contributed to the results shown in the study but were not considered in the said review and analysis. Doctors may still continue to recommend pregnant women to take folic acid supplements during pregnancy since it is an important vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects in newborn children. Dr. Sengpiel is scheduled to present the findings at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s annual meeting in San Francisco this week.