Purpose: We examined whether high doses of folic acid and iron supplementation in early-to-mid pregnancy affect the risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, and small for gestational age neonates, in the mother-child cohort in Crete, Greece (Rhea study).
Methods: We included 1,279 women with singleton pregnancies with complete data on supplements use in early-to-mid pregnancy and birth outcomes. Anthropometric measurements at birth were obtained from medical records. Red blood cell folate concentrations in cord blood were measured in a subsample of the study population (n = 58).
Results: Sixty-six percent of the study participants reported high doses of supplemental folic acid use (5 mg/day), while 21 % reported excessive doses of folic acid use (>5 mg/day) in early-to-mid pregnancy. Daily intake of 5-mg supplemental folic acid was associated with a 31 % decrease in the risk of preterm birth (RR, 0.69; 95 % CI, 0.44, 0.99), 60 % decrease in the risk of delivering a low birth weight neonate (RR, 0.40; 95 % CI, 0.21, 0.76), and 66 % decrease in the risk of delivering a small for gestational age (SGA) neonate (RR, 0.34; 95 % CI, 0.16, 0.73). Daily doses of iron supplementation more than 100 mg were associated with a twofold increased risk for SGA neonates (RR, 2.14; 95 % CI, 0.99, 5.97).
Conclusion: These findings suggest that high daily doses of supplementary folic acid in early-to-mid pregnancy may be protective for preterm birth, low birth weight, and small for gestational age neonates, while high daily doses of supplementary iron may be harmful for fetal growth.