New research has rubbished the long held belief that taking folic acid early in pregnancy - or even before conception - can help reduce the risk of premature birth.
For years mums have been advised to take the supplement to help prevent spina bifida and early deliveries. But a new study - which analysed the dietary records of pregnant Norwegian women - has found that taking folic acid or eating folate rich foods like broccoli, chickpeas and Brussel sprouts, did not offer protection against giving birth prematurely.
The findings fly in the face of a report published three years ago which stated mums and mums-to-be could lessen the risk of a premature birth by more than half if they started taking folic acid a year before they fell pregnant.
Verena Senpiel, who presented the report at the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine's annual meeting in San Fransisco, said that 'sufficient folate intake has been studied as a possible protecting factor against spontaneous preterm delivery with conflicting results,' adding that his research had 'hoped' to confirm the findings.
But his study of 955 premature babies (born between 22 and 36 weeks) and 18,075 controls among the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study found 'no significant association between folate supplementation and spontaneous preterm delivery'.
However, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists warned the study should not deter pregnant women from taking folic acid. A spokesperson said: 'We would strongly recommend folic acid for the first trimester, for the prevention of birth defects.'
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Folic acid might give more protection than we thought