Two thirds of women still not taking folic acid before pregnancy Print

Today is Folic Acid Awareness day and it has been revealed that over 70% of women are not taking folic acid before or during pregnancy.


All women have been asked by the charity Shine to tell at least one other woman about the benefits of taking the supplement.


The awareness day today aims to reduce the chances of a baby developing spina bifida or related condition while growing in the womb  – currently a 1 in 1000 chance.

On average 14 women in the UK are told the heartbreaking news that their baby is affected every week. Over 70% of these cases could well be reduced by a mother taking the right amount of folic acid at the right time, however, latest research highlights that only one third of women take the vitamin correctly.


Shine have launched the Thumbs up for Folic! Campaign and are asking women to upload a ‘selfie’ or photograph of themselves, friends or family giving a ‘thumbs up’, onto any social media platform using the hashtag #fumbsUp4Folic. They want people to share the message with as many people as possible .


Folic Acid Awareness Day is part of a campaign by Shine to promote awareness of and access to folic acid to significantly reduce the incidences of serious disability and the distress it can cause to expectant parents.  They will be organising giveaways in city centres, promotions in supermarkets and other retail outlets, and colleges, with hands on support from Shine members, local MPs, council leaders, midwives, and pharmacists.


Campaign Co-ordinator Martine Austin said: ‘We urge women to take notice of this important message. We have evidence that women will listen to other women, especially those who are willing to share their experience of having a baby with an neural tube defect (NTD). We know that through social media, our lively accessible on-line information, and targeted messages that women will change their behaviour but we need all women to help each other in this. Basically, make sure your friends, relatives, employees, and colleagues know that they should be taking a folic acid or B9 vitamin pill each day if there is any chance that they might conceive.’

If you are thinking of getting pregnant, are pregnant or would like to discuss the importance and benefits of taking folic acid you can pop into your local pharmacist without an appointment.  They can offer free and friendly advice and stock a range of folic supplements.


Further Information

In 1991 scientists proved that a simple B vitamin, folic acid (B9), could help to reduce the risk of serious birth defects of the brain and spine (Neural Tube Defects or NTDs) like spina bifida and anencephaly by up to 72%. Yet, new studies show that two out of three women in the UK are still not taking folic acid before they conceive. (Jonathan P. Bestwick, Wayne J. Huttly, Joan K. Morris, Nicholas J. Wald. Prevention of Neural Tube Defects: A Cross-Sectional Study of the Uptake of Folic Acid Supplementation in Nearly Half a Million Women. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (2): e89354 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0089354)


An NTD occurs at around day 28 of pregnancy (before many women are even aware that they are pregnant) but are not usually diagnosed until the 20+ week antenatal scan when pregnancy is well established. Many cases would be prevented if women knew to take folic acid at the vital time before they conceive.

Ideally folic acid should be taken from three months before conception until the 12th week of pregnancy: women have not got this message, and take the vitamin too late or not at all.


Approximately 80% of affected pregnancies will end in late terminations which cause significant distress to parents and families.

Folic Acid Awareness Day was initiated on 1st May 2013 by the charity Shine, the national organisation dedicated to individuals and families affected by spina bifida and hydrocephalus.


More information at