Women’s awareness and periconceptional use of folic acid: data from a large European survey
Johannes Bitzer,1 Ariane von Stenglin,2 Ralf Bannemerschult3
1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University Women’s Hospital of Basel, Basel, Switzerland; 2Global Market Research, Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, Berlin, Germany; 3Women’s Healthcare Medical Affairs and Pharmacovigilance Region Europe, Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, Berlin, Germany
Objective: To investigate the awareness and use of folic acid in European women of child-bearing age, particularly in the setting of pregnancy and pregnancy planning.
Methods: Between November 2009 and December 2009, women aged 15–49 years old from 18 European countries completed a 30-minute structured questionnaire either online or via face-to-face interviews. To achieve nationally representative samples for each country quotas were set for age, education, income, and regional distribution.
Results: A total of 22,925 women participated in the survey. Of the respondents, 58% had at least one biological child, and of these 38% reported that their first pregnancy was not planned. Nearly 60% of women who planned their pregnancy indicated that they had stopped using their method of contraception without first consulting a doctor or another health care professional. Overall, 70% reported that they had heard of folic acid and 40% stated that they knew the benefits of folic acid. However, when prompted to indicate which diseases and/or birth defects folic acid can protect against, only 17% knew that folic acid can reduce the risk of neural tube defects/spina bifida.
Conclusions: A large proportion of European women of child-bearing age in this survey were unaware that periconceptional folic acid supplementation reduces the risk of birth defects.
Keywords: folic acid supplementation, neural tube defects, pregnancy, women, periconceptional period, survey
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