By Dale Mazer, M.D., M.P.H.

Miscarriages Linked to Low Folic Acid Levels

  |  Food & Nutrition  

Many women know that taking folic acid, or folate, before and during early pregnancy can help protect their unborn babies from neural tube defects. Now a study shows that folic acid also helps to prevent early miscarriages. Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) in the United States compared 468 women who had miscarriages during the sixth to twelfth weeks of pregnancy to 921 women who were six to 12 weeks pregnant. They asked the women questions about their reproductive and health histories, and drew blood to evaluate folic acid levels and smoking status. The results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study showed that women with low folic acid levels had a 50 percent higher risk of early miscarriage than women whose folic acid levels were adequate. “Not only does taking folic acid before conception prevent the devastating form of birth defects known as neural tube defects, but it also appears to lower the risk of early miscarriage,” said Duane Alexander, M.D., NICHD director. It’s important to note that women in the United States, where food is fortified with folic acid, generally have much higher folic acid levels than do women in Sweden, where food isn’t fortified. In the study, women were considered deficient in folic acid if their blood levels were below 4.9 nmol/L. In the United States, the average woman has a folic acid level of 16.2 nmol/L. There is no medical danger known to having high folic acid levels.

 

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