The March of Dimes released a study last week suggesting that taking folic acid supplements for a year before becoming pregnant can cut their risk of pre-term delivery by at least half. The study included more than 38,000 women who were pregnant with singletons and did not have complications such as preeclampsia.

“Thanks to the depth and breadth of the NIH study, which included an early pregnancy ultrasound of each participant, we had highly accurate evidence of the gestational ages of the preterm deliveries,” said Radek Bukowski, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology, at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, the lead study author and SMFM member. “This evidence enabled us to determine that folate supplementation for at least one year is linked to a 70 percent decrease in very early preterm deliveries (20 to 28 weeks in gestational age) and up to a 50 percent reduction in early preterm deliveries of 28 to 32 weeks.”

These are very astounding figures and ones that should not be taken lightly. This is a big step in preventing pre-term babies who are at such high risk for certain disease. While this is not a “cure” even a 50% decrease in premature births would be significant.

Folic acid is already known to help prevent certain birth defects, such as spinal bifida, but until now, effects of folic acid have only been study on it being taken during pregnancy. The US Public Health Service has for a long time recommended that all women of child-bearing age consume 400 micrograms of folic acid every day.

Other studies have suggested folic acid helps reduce stroke and cardiovascular disease in adults. It would be wise for all men and women to get in the habit of consuming folic acid rich foods or at minimum, taking a daily supplement.

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