“Huge Impact On Practice:” Ottawa Researchers Found Folic Acid Cannot Prevent Deadly Pregnancy Complication

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An Ottawa based study found that not even high doses of folic acid can protect women against a deadly pregnancy complication known as preeclampsia. Previous observational studies claimed that the complication could be prevented by taking folic acid.

However, the recent study which had a large-scale clinical trial and published its results in the British Medical Journal shows otherwise.

Women at high risk of high blood pressure while pregnant cannot prevent it by taking high doses of folic acid. Preeclampsia affects 10 million women a year worldwide and is the main cause of complications and deaths, with the only cure available is to prematurely deliver the baby.

Researchers don’t say that pregnant women not to take folic acid but explain that high doses should only be given in certain cases. A low dose of folic acid helps pregnant women to prevent spina bifida (neural tube birth defects). A high dose of folic acid is a treatment received until the first trimester for women with high risk of neural tube birth defects. However, according to the researchers, many women take larger doses than recommended during the entire pregnancy period.

No Effect In Preventing Preeclampsia

“People think folic acid is a harmless vitamin, so many pregnant women take it for longer and in higher doses than recommended,” said Dr. Mark Walker, chief of obstetrics, gynecology and newborn care at The Ottawa Hospital, a professor at uOttawa and lead author of the study.

Their research took a decade to complete and started following 2,400 women in Canada, Argentina, Australia, Jamaica, and the United Kingdom. They will follow the babies to see what was the effect of high doses of folic acid on the babies health or neuro-cognitive development.

The trial started with half of the participants on 4 mg of folic acid every day until delivery and other daily pregnancy supplements that contained a low dose – 1.1 mg of folic acid. The other half received a placebo.

The team of researchers concluded that doctors should give clear directions to their patients about the dose of folic acid and when it should be stopped:

“We got an answer. This will have a huge impact on practice,” added Walker.

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere