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Thursday, 6 September, 2001, 23:03 GMT 00:03 UK
Folic acid 'does not cause miscarriage'
Folic Acid
Pregnant women take folic acid to avoid birth defects
Pregnant women taking folic acid tablets are not at an increased risk of miscarriage, say scientists.

Health experts recommend women take folic acid before and during pregnancy to reduce the risk of their unborn child developing spinal cord defects, such as spina bifida.

Each year neural tube defects affect more than 2,000 babies and spina bifida alone accounts for around one in 10 of all birth defects. Taking folic acid can help prevent this.

But a previous study had suggested that women were at a 16% greater risk of miscarriage if they took the supplement.

This research must be extra comfort for women trying to give their babies the best start in life.

John Grounds Action Research

This latest American and Chinese study of 23,806 pregnant women in China will be reassuring for women worried about the best options to protect their unborn child.

The researchers found that the miscarriage rate among the women, who were all pregnant for the first time, was 9.1%. Among those who had not taken folic acid the miscarriage rate was between 9.1% and 9.3%.

Folic acid
The women took daily folic acid supplements

All the women were given 400 micrograms of folic acid, but no other vitamins as part of a government campaign to cut the number of children being born with neural tube defects like spina bifida.

Dr Robert Berry, one of the researchers, from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, National Centre for Environmental Health, Division of Birth Defects and Paediatric Genetics, Atlanta, said taking the supplement put women at no greater risk of miscarriage.

"We found no evidence that daily consumption of 400 micrograms of folic acid before and during early pregnancy influenced their risk of miscarriage."

Protecting babies

John Grounds, of Action Research, said the report gave a clear message to mothers-to-be that they must take the supplement to protect their babies.

"It's been known for some time now that folic acid can help prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

"This research must be extra comfort for women trying to give their babies the best start in life.

"The message remains the same - taking folic acid supplements is a simple and painless way of helping to reduce a baby's risk of disease and disability."

He also advised women to eat as much fortified cereals, bread and greens as possible.

Rosie Dodds, of the National Childbirth Trust said: "Parents will be relieved to hear that this detailed study showed no increase in the risk of miscarriage if women take folic acid supplements in early pregnancy.

"Previous research has also suggested an increased chance of twin pregnancy, following use of folic acid in early pregnancy. This needs further corroboration."

The report was published in The Lancet.

See also:

26 Jul 01 | Health
Folic acid 'doubles twin chance'
26 Oct 00 | Health
Folic acid message 'unheeded'
25 Jul 00 | Health
Public consulted on folic acid
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