The authors aimed to evaluate the frequency with which pregnant Sicilian women with a high risk of recurring neural tube defects (NTD) attending the Ultrasonography and Prenatal Diagnosis Clinic in the Department of Diagnosis and Treatment at Ospedale S. Bambino in Catania were aware of the preventive effect of folic acid supplements during the periconceptional period and whether they therefore took folic acid supplements before the next pregnancy.
All pregnant women undergoing ultrasonography between January 1997 and December 1998 were interviewed. It was noted whether any earlier offspring had suffered from NTD or whether relatives (sisters, brothers, parents) had also suffered from the same experience. They were also asked whether they knew about the preventive effect of periconceptional folic acid supplements on the development of NTD, whether their pregnancy was planned and whether they had taken periconceptional folic acid supplements and, if so, at what dose.
Eighteen couples were identified as being at risk for recurring NTD, in 3 cases owing to an earlier pregnancy resulting in NTD (2 cases of spina bifida and 1 case of anencephaly) with a negative family history for NTD; a further 15 couples showed a positive family history for NTD. None of the women were aware of the preventive effect of acid folic supplements during the periconceptional period on the development of NTD. Out of 11 programmed pregnancies, none of the pregnant women took folic acid during the periconceptional phase.
Pregnant Sicilian women at risk for recurring NTD interviewed by the authors were not aware of the possible prevention of NTD using folic acid supplements during the periconceptional phase.