Objective: Periconceptional folic acid or multivitamin supplementation is recommended for prospective pregnant women to prevent neural-tube defects. The question is whether it is worth continuing these supplementations after the first trimester of pregnancy or not. Thus the possible fetal growth promoting and/or preterm birth reducing effect of vitamin supplements in the second and mainly in the third trimester was studied.
Study design: Comparison of birth outcomes of singletons born to primiparous pregnant women with prospectively and medically recorded vitamin supplement in the population-based data set of the Hungarian Case-Control Surveillance of Congenital Abnormalities (HCCSCA), 1980-1996 contained 6293, 169, and 311 primiparae with folic acid alone, multivitamins and folic acid+multivitamin supplementation, respectively, and their data were compared to the data of 7319 pregnant women without folic acid and folic acid-containing multivitamin supplementation as reference.
Results: Mean gestational age was 0.3 week longer and mean birth weight was by 37 g higher in the group of folic acid alone, than in the reference group (39.2 weeks; 3216 g). The rate of preterm births (7.6%) was significantly lower compared with the reference sample (11.8%), but the rate of low birth weight newborns did not show significant reduction. Folic acid alone in the third trimester associated with 0.6 week longer gestational age and a more significant reduction in the rate of preterm births (4.8%).
Conclusions: Minor increase in mean birth weight after high dose of folic acid supplementation during pregnancy would not be expected to result in too large babies; however, the significant reduction in the rate of preterm births may have great public health benefit.
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