Folic Acid May Reduce Premature Births

Folic Acid May Reduce Premature Births

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By VRP Staff

Taking folic acid supplements for one year before conception may reduce the risk of premature births by approximately 50 percent, researchers reported at the annual meeting of the 28th Annual Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

Researchers studied data from 38,033 women who had participated in an earlier trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The data included information from an early pregnancy ultrasound.

The new study determined that supplementing with folic acid at least a year in advance of pregnancy reduced premature births. The supplementation appeared to have a significant effect on preventing very early preterm deliveries (20 to 28 weeks in gestational age), infants who are at the greatest risk of complications such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, chronic lung disease, and blindness. The researchers found that folic acid supplementation for at least one year is linked to a 70 percent reduction in very early premature births. There also was a 50 percent reduction in early preterm deliveries (28 to 32 weeks).

It has long been known that folate deficiency in women during early pregnancy increases the risk of neural tube defects (NTD) such as spina bifida and anencephaly in their offspring. However, the researchers believe their study is the first and largest U.S. study to examine the effects of folic acid supplementation prior to conception on early preterm delivery.


Bukowski R, et al. Preconceptional Folate Prevents Preterm Delivery. Presented at the 28th Annual Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) meeting, Dallas, Texas,  January 28, 2008 – February 2, 2008.

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