Knowledge and intake of folic acid to prevent neural tube defects among pregnant women in urban China: a cross-sectional study.BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2021 Jun 21; 21(1):432.BP
The prevalence of neural tube defects (NTDs) in China declined during 2000-2017 with periconceptional folic acid (FA) supplementation, which is effective in reducing the risk of birth defects. We aimed to assess the knowledge and actual use of FA among Chinese pregnant women and to explore factors associated with FA use before pregnancy.
All data were collected in face-to-face interviews during health visits among pregnant women. We collected information about knowledge and use of FA supplements and demographic, socioeconomic, and health status. One maternity and childcare hospital was chosen in each of four cities: Beijing, Huaibei, Kunming, and Haikou. In total, 435 pregnant women were randomly recruited for interviews conducted from June to December 2016.
A total of 428 pregnant women were included in this survey. Of these, 82.0% (351/428) knew that FA can prevent NTDs, and 75.9% (325/428) knew the correct time to take FA. Overall, 65.9% (282/428) of women knew both that FA can prevent NTDs and the recommended time to take FA before pregnancy. Approximately 95.1% (407/428) of women reported having ever taken FA, only 46.3% (198/428) had begun to take FA supplementation before conception, and 64.5% (109/169) of women from rural areas failed to take FA before pregnancy. Women living in northern China (odds ratio [OR] = 1.81, 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.18-2.77), those with unplanned pregnancy (OR = 1.99, 95% CI 1.30-3.04), and highly educated women (OR = 2.37, 95% CI 1.45-3.88) were more likely to know about FA. Women who were homemakers (OR = 1.94, 95% CI 1.21-3.11) and had unplanned pregnancy (OR = 6.18, 95% CI 4.01-9.53) were less likely to begin taking FA before pregnancy.
Our survey showed that most pregnant women knew about FA. Although preconception intake of FA can help to reduce NTDs, improving the rate of FA intake before pregnancy is needed in urban areas of China, especially among homemakers and women from rural areas or with unplanned pregnancy. Campaigns are needed to increase awareness about FA and FA use before pregnancy among rural women, homemakers, and those with unplanned pregnancy and lower education levels.