Awareness and intake of folic acid for the prevention of neural tube defects among Lebanese women of childbearing age.Matern Child Health J. 2012 Jan; 16(1):258-65.MC
Since the early 1990s, international recommendations have promoted folic acid supplementation during the periconception period as an effective way of preventing neural tube defects (NTDs). However, the adoption of this recommendation remains insufficient. To assess the awareness and actual intake of folic acid among married Lebanese women aged 18-45 years, a cross-sectional study was conducted among 600 women selected from all five administrative districts in Lebanon, using a multistage cluster sampling procedure. An anonymous questionnaire was completed which covered measures of knowledge and use of folate supplements, as well as demographic, socioeconomic and obstetrical factors. Sixty percent of surveyed women (60%; n = 360) had heard about folic acid. Doctors were the most frequent source of information (61.1%) but only 24.7% of women have been told of the correct period during which folic acid supplementation was useful. Overall, only 6.2% had taken folic acid tablets during the adequate period. Younger age, higher education level and stability/sufficiency of income appeared to be significant predictors of awareness among Lebanese women. Actual folic acid intake was significantly associated with younger age, higher number of pregnancies, planning the last pregnancy and having had that last one after 1990. In Lebanon, the level of folic acid awareness and adequate intake remain relatively low. Several approaches should be used to promote folic acid intake including awareness campaigns, and routine counseling by primary health care physicians on folic acid during preconception visits.