Information for Health Professionals

Folic acid has been proven to help reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) by as much as 70% if taken before pregnancy and during the first trimester. But survey results show that many women don’t know the benefits of folic acid, or when to take it and where to find it.

Talk to your patients or clients about folic acid today – BEFORE they get pregnant.

Society of Gynecologists and Obstetricians of Canada (SOGC) Clinical Practice Guidelines

Provider Awareness | Client & Patient Awareness
Educational Materials | Research & Resources

Provider awareness

"Quantitative surveys … have identified a gap between the high level of knowledge, and relatively low level of practice, among healthcare providers (HCPs) with respect to making specific recommendations about folic acid, and with respect to the provision of pre-conceptional care." (Needs Assessment Among Health Care Practitioners Regarding Gap between Guidelines and Practice With Respect to Folic Acid, 2006 March of Dimes, CDC Report)

SB&H wants to help close that gap in Ontario in order to reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs), including spina bifida.

An Ipsos-Reid study of Ontario women and their understanding and awareness of folic acid in connection with NTDs found:

  • despite the significant impact of a folic acid awareness campaign made regarding individuals’ knowledge of folic acid, especially among women who were planning to have children in the following three years, there remained some areas that required further education;
  • most women were still not aware of the daily dosage of folic acid recommended to reduce the risk of birth defects;
  • the age of a mother at birth was mistakenly believed to be the most common risk factor for spina bifida;
  • most women of childbearing age were unable to accurately identify food sources of folate; and
  • only 35% of women interviewed were currently taking a multivitamin.

Read a complete summary of the Consumer Survey results.

Extra efforts need to made to counsel more vulnerable women (e.g. those with a variable diet, no consistent birth control and possible substance abuse) about the prevention of birth defects and helath problems through the use of  folic acid and multivitamin supplementation. It is recommended that they receive a higher dose of folic acid with a multivitamin.

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A survey of healthcare providers in August 2002 found:

  • 90% of healthcare providers agreed strongly that pre-conceptional folic acid can help reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) (up 15% from 2001);
  • 70% always or often discussed the connection between folic acid and NTDs with their patients (more than double in 2001);
  • there was almost a 50% increase in the number of HCPs who strongly agreed that the risk of NTDs can be reduced by consuming a folate-rich diet and a multivitamin supplement that contains folic acid;
  • when asked if they counseled patients at high risk differently, 87% said yes (compared to only 69% in 2001); and
  • when asked to identify women who were at high risk, many HCPs correctly identified women with a previous pregnancy affected by NTDs, women with a family history of NTDs, women who use certain anti-seizure medications, and women with insulin-dependent diabetes (comparable to 2001). In addition, 11% identified various ethnic groups (a new high-risk group recently identified in the 2002 Health Canada report).

Read a complete copy of the Healthcare Provider survey results.

Spread the word to other health professionals.


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Client & patient awareness

Although the vast majority of Ontario women have heard about folic acid:

  • Most women are still not aware of the daily dosage of folic acid recommended to reduce the risk of birth defects.
  • Age of mother at birth is mistakenly believed to be the most common risk factor for spina bifida.
  • Most women of childbearing age are unable to accurately identify food sources of folate.
  • Only 35% of women interviewed are currently taking a multivitamin.

It is through awareness and education that we can begin to change behaviour and ultimately decrease the incidence of neural tube defects.

SB&H has developed a Community Action Guide as part of its provincial awareness campaign. Designed to provide ideas and activities to reinforce the folic acid message in communities across the province, it is available to anyone who wishes to know more or to launch a local awareness campaign.

We also provide access to brochures other Educational Materials, as well as regularly updated Research & Resources and related Links.

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Any questions?