Folate concentrations and folic acid supplementation among women in their first trimester of pregnancy in a rural area with a high prevalence of neural tube defects in Shanxi, China.Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2006 Jun; 76(6):461-6.BD
Although an information campaign concerning periconceptional folic acid supplementation was launched in 1998 in Shanxi Province, China, the prevalence of neural tube defects in rural areas was reported as high as 140 per 10,000 births in 2002. The blood folate concentrations and the practice of folic acid supplementation among pregnant women in rural areas of the province are described.
A total of 483 pregnant women (mean gestation, 8.1 weeks) in a rural area of Shanxi were interviewed. Nonfasting blood samples and information on folic acid supplementation were collected. Folate concentrations in plasma and erythrocytes were determined by a microbiological assay.
The mean concentrations of plasma and erythrocyte folate for pregnant women was 10.4 nmol/liter and 375.8 nmol/liter, respectively. Deficiencies of plasma and erythrocyte folate were observed in 20.9% and 47.6% of women, respectively. Seasonal variations were noted in the prevalence of folate deficiency, with significantly lower plasma folate concentrations in spring and summer and lower erythrocyte folate concentrations in seasons other than summer. Among pregnant women, <10% reported having taken or currently taking folic acid, and virtually no women (0.6%) took folic acid as recommended.
Women in rural areas had low plasma and erythrocyte folate levels, and folate deficiency was highly prevalent in the area. Few women followed the recommendations regarding folic acid supplementation, and the information campaign in Shanxi was unsuccessful. These findings suggest the urgent need for combined strategies in rural areas to fortify grain with folic acid and promote folic acid supplements for childbearing-age women.