Folic acid supplementation and preterm birth: results from observational studies

Biomed Res Int. 2014:2014:481914. doi: 10.1155/2014/481914. Epub 2014 Mar 3.


Introduction: Folic acid (FA) supplementation is recommended worldwide in the periconceptional period for the prevention of neural tube defects. Due to its involvement in a number of cellular processes, its role in other pregnancy outcomes such as miscarriage, recurrent miscarriage, low birth weight, preterm birth (PTB), preeclampsia, abruptio placentae, and stillbirth has been investigated. PTB is a leading cause of perinatal mortality and morbidity; therefore its association with FA supplementation is of major interest. The analysis of a small number of randomized clinical trials (RCTs) has not found a beneficial role of FA in reducing the rate of PTBs.

Aim of the study: The aim of this review was to examine the results from recent observational studies about the effect of FA supplementation on PTB.

Materials and methods: We carried out a search on Medline and by manual search of the observational studies from 2009 onwards that analyzed the rate of PTB in patients who received supplementation with FA before and/or throughout pregnancy.

Results: The results from recent observational studies suggest a slight reduction of PTBs that is not consistent with the results from RCTs. Further research is needed to better understand the role of FA supplementation before and during pregnancy in PTB.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Dietary Supplements / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Folic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • MEDLINE / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Observational Studies as Topic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pregnancy / drug effects*
  • Premature Birth / epidemiology*
  • Premature Birth / prevention & control*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Folic Acid