Impact of continuing folic acid after the first trimester of pregnancy: findings of a randomized trial of Folic Acid Supplementation in the Second and Third Trimesters

Breige McNulty, Helene McNulty, Barry Marshall, Mary Ward, Anne M Molloy, John M Scott, James Dornan, Kristina Pentieva
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2013, 98 (1): 92-8

BACKGROUND: Supplementation with folic acid (FA) is recommended worldwide before and during early pregnancy because of its proven effect in preventing neural tube defects, but the role of FA after the 12th gestational week (GW) is much less clear.

OBJECTIVE: We investigated maternal folate and homocysteine responses and related effects in the newborn that resulted from continued FA supplementation after the first trimester of pregnancy.

DESIGN: Pregnant women, aged 18-35 y, who were attending an antenatal clinic in Northern Ireland with singleton uncomplicated pregnancies and reported taking FA supplements in the first trimester, were randomly assigned at the start of trimester 2 to receive 400 μg FA/d or a placebo capsule.

RESULTS: A total of 119 women (60 women in the placebo group; 59 women in the treatment group) completed the trial. From GWs 14-36, mean (±SD) serum folate decreased (from 45.7 ± 21.3 to 19.5 ± 16.5 nmol/L; P < 0.001) in unsupplemented women, whereas plasma homocysteine increased (6.6 ± 2.3 to 7.6 ± 2.3 μmol/L; P < 0.001). However, FA supplementation prevented these changes and resulted in a significant increase in red blood cell folate concentrations from 1203 ± 639 to 1746 ± 683 nmol/L (P < 0.001; GWs 14-36). Cord blood folate was significantly higher in the FA group than in the placebo group (red blood cell concentrations of 1993 ± 862 and 1418 ± 557 nmol/L, respectively; P = 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: Continued supplementation with 400 μg FA/d in trimesters 2 and 3 of pregnancy can increase maternal and cord blood folate status and prevent the increase in homocysteine concentration that otherwise occurs in late pregnancy. Whether these effects have benefits for pregnancy outcomes or early childhood requires additional study.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Related Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"

We want to hear from doctors like you!

Take a second to answer a survey question.