Birmingham, UK—Healthcare professionals have long supported the use of folic acid supplementation during pregnancy to reduce the risk of neural tube defects, especially during the earliest stages of fetal development. Now, new research published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology suggests another reason for women to take folic acid before conception.

Researchers conducted a population-based study and a systematic review to see whether folic acid affects a baby’s size compared to others of the same gestational age. A small size at birth is associated with health issues later in life. 

The present study included data from 108,525 pregnancies; 84.9% of the mothers had taken folic acid during pregnancy. About 26% of these cases began supplementation before pregnancy. The highest rate of small size for gestational age was associated with mothers that didn’t take folate, with 16.3% having newborns under the 10th percentile for birth weight and 8.9% having newborns under the fifth percentile for birth weight. Women taking folic acid before conception were less like to have a baby with a low birth weight for its gestational size.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, January 2015 (online 12/11/14)