Results from the latest survey for safefood’s folic acid campaign have revealed while more than 95% of women are now aware of the benefits of taking folic acid, only 1 in 3 actually routinely take it.
The survey coincides with the latest phase of the campaign “‘Babies Know the Facts About Folic’ which aims to encourage women to take folic acid supplements and help address Ireland’s high incidence rate of Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) like Spina Bifida among newborn babies.
Recently published Irish research has also shown that three out of four women who attend for antenatal care have not taken folic acid supplements at the critical time which is before they become pregnant.
Commenting, Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, safefood said, “We now need women to act on this knowledge. It’s encouraging that knowledge around folic acid is high and women know what it is, what it does and who should take it, but most women in the relevant age group are not taking this preventative supplement or not taking it before they become pregnant. At 30% to 36% this is still far too low. Folic acid is widely available, cheap and a year’s supply can cost less than a single takeaway coffee.
“While it is encouraging that we’ve seen a 10% increase in folic acid supplement intake among women who are not planning a pregnancy, this is from a very low starting point and there’s still a great deal of room to improve.”
Among women surveyed for the campaign, 60% felt that women should take folic acid all the time, whether planning a pregnancy or not. A further 37% of women felt they should take it before getting pregnant and for the first three months.
“For a healthy mum and baby, we simply can’t get enough folic acid from our food alone even with fortified foods – taking a daily folic acid supplement of 400 mcg is the only way to go”, continued Dr Foley-Nolan. “One reason why women are hesitant about taking folic acid is because it indicates they are actively trying to get pregnant. This mind-set needs to change with over 50% pregnancies unplanned but most of these are ‘happy accidents’.”
Ray Dolan, CEO safefood said “We’re very proud of the campaign as it has the potential to prevent two thirds of Neural Tube Defects every year – that’s approximately 50 fewer babies affected. We’ve already seen some significant changes in behaviour among women who say they take folic acid regularly and with this latest phase of the campaign, we’re working hard to convert this awareness into action.”
Supported by Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Ireland and Shine NI, the safefood campaign ‘Babies Know the Facts about Folic’ will feature on social and digital media during November. For more information visit www.safefood.eu/folicacid or follow the conversation using the hashtag #FolicFacts