New research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports the protective effect of folic acid supplementation against recurrent neural tube defects (NTD). The study results were published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

To evaluate folic acid supplement (from multivitamins or single-ingredient supplements) and NTD recurrence risk, a convenience sample of 27 women with a previous NTD-affected pregnancy was selected from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS).

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The sample was divided between women who previously had an NTD-affected pregnancy and whose index pregnancy (pregnancy included in NBDPS) was either affected by an NTD (N = 17) (i.e., recurrence-cases) or resulted in a live-born infant without a major birth defect (N = 10) (i.e., recurrence-controls). Supplementation that included folic acid was more common among recurrence-control mothers (80%) than recurrence-case mothers (35%).

While the sample size in this study was small, these findings support the recommendation that women should take folic acid supplements just before and during early pregnancy for NTD prevention. However, increased awareness about the importance of folic acid supplementation use in preconception and early pregnancy is still needed, especially among women with a previous NTD-affected pregnancy.

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