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Knowledge and uptake of folic acid among pregnant women attending a secondary health facility in Nigeria

02 June 2017
Volume 25 · Issue 6



Folate deficiency is associated with poor pregnancy outcomes and is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies in women, especially those of reproductive age.


This study aimed to determine the level of knowledge and uptake of folic acid among a sample of pregnant women.


A descriptive cross-sectional study, using a structured questionnaire, was carried out among 300 pregnant women attending antenatal clinics in one hospital in Oluyoro, Ibadan, Nigeria.


All participants claimed to have heard of folic acid and major source of information was health workers (77.3%). Only 11.8% knew that folic acid can prevent birth defects and just 22.7% knew the best time to start using folic acid. Almost all the women (98.3%) reported using folic acid in the current pregnancy, of whom 54.2% used it as prescribed. Education (P=0.002), marital status (P=0.001), plan of pregnancy (P=0.022), and maternal age (P=0.046) were significantly associated with knowledge of folic acid. Employment status was significantly associated with uptake of folic acid (P=0.004).


In this study, knowledge and uptake of folic acid was low among young, single and low education status women. Campaigns promoting periconceptional use of folic acid will be very useful in reaching women of child-bearing age particularly those pregnant and not registered for antenatal care.

Folate is an essential micronutrient that cannot be biosynthesised by human body and must be obtained either from diet or from supplements; it is required for fetal body metabolism, growth, and development in pregnant women (Naithani et al, 2016).

The relationship between serious birth defects and their prevention by folic acid is well established. Several studies, including randomised control trials and observational studies, have shown that maternal intake of folic acid supplements before and early in pregnancy reduces the risk of neural tube defects in infants. Children with severe birth defects have a 15-fold increased risk of death during the first year of life, and studies have estimated that approximately 9–10% of such children die during this period (Copp and Greene, 2010).

Women who could become pregnant are advised to eat foods fortified with folic acid or to take supplements in addition to eating folate-rich foods. Taking 400 mg of synthetic folic acid supplementation daily has been suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO) (2012). Despite WHO recommendation, the use of iron and folic acid supplementation is still low in many countries, especially those with low resources (Ogundipe et al, 2012).

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