New research links mothers' lack of folic acid with cleft lip and palate

July 5, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- New research by medics at Trinity College Dublin suggests that folic acid plays a vital role in preventing a major birth defect. This is in addition to the established protection against neural birth defect such as spina bifida The findings published in the July 2012 edition of the leading primary care journal, the British Journal of General Practice show that the risk of having Cleft Lip and Palate (CLP) was more than four times higher if mothers had not taken folic acid in the first trimester.

These findings by researchers at the Department of Public Health and Primary Care in the School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin will be of great benefit to women and healthcare practitioners involved in prenatal counselling, especially , who are advising women likely to conceive.

Trinity postgraduate research student and Ms Dervla Kelly is the first author on the paper and Dr Udo Reulbach, an and Clinical Research Fellow, HRB Centre for Primary Care Research and Departmentof Public Health and Primary Care, Trinity College Dublin, is the joint senior author.

Commenting on the significance of the research, Trinity’s Professor of General Practice Tom O’Dowd, a senior author on the paper stated: “This study supports the hypothesis of a further significant role of a daily folic acid supplement of 0.4mg taken 4 weeks before conception and in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy in the prevention of ”.

A cleft lip is a separation in the upper lip while a cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth. Clefts result from incomplete development of the lip and/or palate in the early weeks of pregnancy. Even when repaired, complications from CLP can lead to long-lasting complications such as persistent ear infections, speech impairments, facial deformities and dental problems.

Using a sample of 11,134 nine-month-olds from the Growing Up in Ireland study, a national study led by TCD and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), researchers found that over a third of mothers did not take a folic acid supplement prior to becoming pregnant while a minority did not during the first trimester. The main reason for women not taking a supplement was their being unaware that they were pregnant.

This study also highlights the socioeconomic factors associated with not taking folic acid during the . The benefits of this safe, simple and cheap supplement need to be promoted to all women who have any chance of becoming pregnant, according to the authors.

Explore further: Corticosteroid use during pregnancy not linked to facial clefts in infants

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Children born in the summer more likely to be healthy adults

October 12, 2015

Women who were born in the summer are more likely to be healthy adults, suggests new research published in the journal Heliyon. The authors of the study, which involved almost half a million people in the UK, say more sunlight ...

Mobile app records our erratic eating habits

September 24, 2015

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner? For too many of us, the three meals of the day go more like: office meeting pastry, mid-afternoon energy drink, and midnight pizza. In Cell Metabolism on September 24, Salk Institute scientists ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jul 05, 2012
This has been know for many years. I told my daughters this 25 years ago.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.