Folic acid survey of Spanish-speaking women finds most are missing benefits

January 5, 2009

Only 17 percent of Spanish-speaking women of childbearing age in the United States are taking a multivitamin containing folic acid daily, according to the first- nationally representative folic acid awareness survey to focus on this population.

Folic acid can prevent neural tube defects (NTDs), serious birth defects of the brain and spine such as spina bifida and anencephaly, which are more prevalent in the Hispanic population than other racial or ethnic groups. Hispanics are the largest and the fastest growing racial and ethnic group in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and they account for more than 23 percent of all births in this country.

Folic Acid Awareness Week is January 5-11, a time when the March of Dimes and other members of the National Council on Folic Acid work to raise awareness of the benefits of this essential B vitamin. Daily consumption of folic acid beginning before and continuing through pregnancy is crucial because NTDs can occur in the early weeks following conception, often before a woman knows she is pregnant.

Two separate surveys by the March of Dimes of women's awareness of folic acid and its benefits are being released today. "Improving Preconception Health: Knowledge and Use of Vitamins and Folic Acid Among Spanish-language-dominant Hispanic Women" was conducted by International Communications Research. They questioned 1,250 women of childbearing age and was funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Improving Preconception Health: Women's Knowledge and Use of Folic Acid," which surveyed more than 2,000 women of all races and ethnicities, was conducted by Gallup and also was funded by the CDC.

"More than half of all pregnancies are unplanned, which is why it's so important that all women of childbearing age take a multivitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid beginning before and continuing through pregnancy," said Joann Petrini, PhD, MPH, director of the March of Dimes Perinatal Data Center.

Hispanic women and young women (ages 18 to 24) are among the least likely groups in the U.S. to take the recommended amount of folic acid that could lower their babies' risk of developing NTDs.

The March of Dimes survey of women of all races found that nearly 40 percent of U.S. women of childbearing age (ages 18-45), say they take a daily multivitamin supplement containing folic acid. However, the rate drops to 27 percent among women 18 to 24 years old. Only 11 percent of women of childbearing age said they knew that folic acid should be consumed prior to pregnancy.

The March of Dimes has led efforts to raise awareness of the benefits of folic acid since 1992, when the U.S. Public Health Service began recommending that all women capable of becoming pregnant consume folic acid beginning before pregnancy to prevent NTDs.

Also, since 2004, March of Dimes chapters have awarded more than $1.5 million in community grants and awards to support folic acid education, and have reached more than 4.5 million consumers and health care professionals with folic acid education and materials.

For example, March of Dimes chapters in North Carolina and Florida offer success stories. In North Carolina, there was an 80 percent decline in the number of NTDs between 1995 and 2005, and in Florida, more than 80 percent of women of childbearing age report taking a vitamin containing folic acid before pregnancy.

Since the U.S. Food & Drug Administration began requiring in 1998 that all enriched grains be fortified with folic acid, NTDs in the U.S. have declined by 26 percent.

Source: March of Dimes Foundation

Explore further: Women falling short on birth defect prevention

Related Stories

Women falling short on birth defect prevention

October 13, 2017
(HealthDay)—Only a third of women are taking a multivitamin containing folic acid—a nutrient known to prevent serious birth defects—before they know they're pregnant, a new survey has found.

Supplement use predicts folate status in Canadian women

April 10, 2012
Researchers have gained new insight into why 22% of Canadian women of childbearing age are still not achieving a folate concentration considered optimal for reducing the risk of having babies with neural tube defects, despite ...

Young women may reduce heart disease risk eating fish with omega 3 fatty acids

December 5, 2011
Young women may reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease simply by eating more fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, researchers reported in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.

UV exposure found to lower folate levels in young women

March 19, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Women who are pregnant or trying to fall pregnant and taking a folic acid supplement may be at risk of reducing their folate benefit through sun exposure, a new QUT study has warned.

Adding folic acid to staple foods can prevent birth defects, but most countries don't do it

March 9, 2016
Imagine that scientists find an indisputable link between microcephaly and the Zika virus. Then imagine that they find a simple way to prevent it, but that the solution is not implemented.

Mercury levels dropping in younger US women

November 21, 2013
(HealthDay)—Mercury levels in American women of childbearing age have dropped about one-third over a decade, a new federal study shows.

Recommended for you

Moderate coffee drinking 'more likely to benefit health than to harm it', say experts

November 22, 2017
Drinking coffee is "more likely to benefit health than to harm it" for a range of health outcomes, say researchers in The BMJ today.

When traveling on public transport, you may want to cover your ears

November 22, 2017
The noise levels commuters are exposed to while using public transport or while biking, could induce hearing loss if experienced repeatedly and over long periods of time, according to a study published in the open access ...

Different types of alcohol elicit different emotional responses

November 22, 2017
Different types of alcohol elicit different emotional responses, but spirits are most frequently associated with feelings of aggression, suggests research published in the online journal BMJ Open.

Air pollution linked to poorer quality sperm

November 22, 2017
Air pollution, particularly levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), is associated with poorer quality sperm, suggests research published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Sunrise and sunset guide daily activities of city-dwellers

November 21, 2017
Despite artificial lightning and social conventions, the dynamics of daylight still influence the daily activities of people living in modern, urban environments, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

Older men need more protein to maintain muscles

November 21, 2017
The amount of protein recommended by international guidelines is not sufficient to maintain muscle size and strength in older men, according to a new study.

0 comments

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.