Periconceptional folic acid supplementation is effective in preventing primary and secondary neural tube defects (NTDs) and other congenital defects. It is important to estimate folate intake and knowledge in women of child-bearing age, in relation to risk of congenital anomalies.
The aim of this study was to determine the level of knowledge about the usefulness of periconceptional folic acid supplementation in a sample of women in the child-bearing age.
This is a cross-sectional survey.
Eleven primary health care centers and women's hospital in Qatar.
A multistage sampling design was used and a representative sample of 1,800 Qatari women aged between 18 and 45 years were surveyed during the period June to November 2004. One thousand four hundred and eighty women (82.2%) expressed their consent to participate in this study.
A confidential, anonymous questionnaire was completed by the selected subjects assessing folic acid awareness. Questionnaires were administered to women who were seeking routine antenatal care at health centers and Women's Hospital. Questions covered knowledge and use of folic acid supplements, pregnancy intention, and demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. Factors affecting study outcomes were examined individually by computing crude odd ratios and adjusted for other covariates using unconditional logistic regression.
Out of 1480 women surveyed, 53.7% of them reported that they heard of folate. Of these, only half of the subjects knew that folate was something important. Overall, 20.3% of the respondents took folic acid. The most common information sources on folate were physicians (63.4%), and newspapers/magazine/books (21.7%). From those who heard of folate, only 14% knew that it can prevent birth defects. 40.6% of the subjects who heard folate were aware that green leafy vegetables were fortified with folic acid. In univariate analysis, awareness of folic acid was significantly associated with education of mother. Again, higher educated women (41.3%) knew more about folic acid and used it more often in the periconceptional and first trimester period.
Awareness and use of folic acid was less prevalent among Qatari women. Educated women were aware of the importance of the intake of folic acid. The study findings suggested possible avenue for intervention to increase awareness and intake of folic acid.