By Maternal Age
Folic acid, or folate, is one of the 'B' vitamins. It is essential to the normal development of an unborn baby's spine, brain and skull, especially during the first four weeks of pregnancy. Folate also supports a pregnant woman’s expanding blood volume and growing maternal and fetal tissues. Eating according to Canada’s Food Guide and taking a daily multivitamin with 400 mcg (0.4mg) of folic acid will help prepare for a healthy pregnancy and can reduce the risk of a baby developing neural tube defects. However, according to the 2007-2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey, 22% of women of childbearing age had a blood cell folate concentration below the level considered optimal to minimize the risk of neural tube defects.
It is recommended that a supplement be taken at least three months before getting pregnant and throughout pregnancy.
For more information on folic acid vitamins and pregnancy, please see the health unit's website on health before pregnancy.
According to the Better Outcomes Registry and Network (BORN), in 2014, just over one-quarter (28.8% (27.6%, 30.0%)) of pregnant women in Simcoe Muskoka were taking a folic acid supplementation prior to becoming pregnant. Over 90% of these women also supplemented during pregnancy. Approximately 50% (51.9% (50.5%, 53.3%) of pregnant women in Simcoe Muskoka only took a folic acid supplementation during pregnancy and 12.6% (11.7%, 13.6%) did not take any folic acid supplementation during pregnancy.
By Maternal Age
Folic acid supplementation before pregnancy was higher in the older maternal age groups with 36.5% (33.1%, 39.9%) of pregnant women aged 35-49 years taking a folic acid supplementation prior to becoming pregnant compared with 9.9% (8.0%, 12.1%) of pregnant women 15-24 years. Less than 3% of women in any age group who supplemented prior to pregnancy stopped taking folic acid supplements upon becoming pregnancy.
Younger pregnant women were more likely to only supplement during pregnancy. Approximately two-thirds (66.2% (63.0%, 69.4%)) of mothers aged 15-24 years only took a folic acid supplement during pregnancy, whereas just under half of pregnant women aged 25-34 and 35-49 years only supplemented during pregnancy. These differences in supplementation by age may be explained by a greater proportion of pregnancies in younger women being unplanned.