Periconceptional vitamin use, dietary folate, and the occurrence of neural tube defects

Epidemiology. 1995 May;6(3):219-26. doi: 10.1097/00001648-199505000-00005.


With a case-control study, we investigated whether periconceptional intake of supplemental or dietary folate reduced the risk of having a neural tube defect (NTD)-affected pregnancy. Mothers of 549 (88% of eligible) cases and 540 (88%) controls were interviewed in person about vitamin supplements used in either the 3 months before or the 3 months after conception and also about usual diet in the 3 months before conception. Women with any use of a folic acid-containing vitamin in the 3 months before conception had a lower risk of having an NTD-affected pregnancy [odds ratio (OR) = 0.65; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.45-0.94]. ORs were similar for 3 levels (< 0.4, 0.4-0.9, and > 0.9 mg per day) of average daily intake of folic acid. Any level of use in the first 3 months after conception resulted in a lowered risk as well (OR = 0.60; 95% CI = 0.46-0.79). Reduced risks were less marked for Hispanics and were not observed among women who graduated from college. Modest reduced risks were noted among non-vitamin users whose estimated daily dietary intake of folate was more than 0.227 mg. We observed decreasing risk with increasing folate intake from combined dietary sources and vitamin supplements. A reduction in NTD risk associated with folate intake is consistent with other studies; however, the reduced risk may be particular to subsets of the population, primarily non-Hispanic women and women whose education does not exceed high school.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • California / epidemiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Demography
  • Diet*
  • Energy Intake
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Folic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Neural Tube Defects / epidemiology
  • Neural Tube Defects / ethnology
  • Neural Tube Defects / prevention & control*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Preconception Care*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • Risk Factors
  • Vitamins / administration & dosage
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use*


  • Vitamins
  • Folic Acid