News & Media

February 15, 2011

The Motherisk Program, located at the Hospital for Sick Children, invites women between the ages of 18 and 45 years to participate in a study about folic acid during pregnancy.

We are looking for healthy women who are planning a pregnancy or who are less than 6 weeks pregnant, but are not currently taking folic acid or multivitamins. In addition, women must not have had a previous pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect or a family history of neural tube defects.

Motherisk will provide multivitamins containing folic acid to all participants upon study inclusion and for the duration of pregnancy. These multivitamins are to be taken daily. They are approved by Health Canada and can be safely obtained from healthcare professionals and healthcare services.

Researchers at the Hospital for Sick Children will draw blood samples at 4 times during the study to measure folate levels. Folate measurements will take place at the Hospital for Sick Children (Toronto, Ontario), therefore, study participation may be most convenient for women residing in the GTA.

Participants will be paid $250 (maximum) upon completion of the study. Payments will be adjusted depending on the degree of participation.

If you would like to participate or if you would like more information, please contact the study co-ordinator, Carolyn Tam, at (416) 813-7283 or by e-mail at

February 11, 2011

CTV National News reports a long-awaited study has revealed a delicate form of surgery performed while a baby is still in the womb could vastly change the outcomes for children born with spina bifida. The study found spina bifida surgery performed in the womb greatly improves the chances a child will one day be able to walk independently, but it also found the infants who underwent the prenatal surgery were much more likely to be born premature, putting them at increased risk for breathing difficulties.

To view the full article and watch the video news report, visit CTV News. To read the complete research article, visit the New England Journal of Medicine.

February 08, 2011

The National Post reports researchers at McGill University support fortifying bread and other food with folic acid. Women should also take supplements before and around the time they get pregnant, a recommendation made by many experts.

“Folic acid is important and it reduces birth defects,” says Dr. Rima Rozen, head of the new study.

A synthetic form of naturally occurring folate, folic acid has been mandated in Canada as an addition to white flour, enriched pasta and cornmeal since 1998, with seemingly dramatic results. A 2007 study concluded rates of fetal neural tube defects had fallen by 50% per year.

The recommendation is that women consume 0.4 mg of folic acid supplements each day in the three-month period before they conceive and during the first trimester of pregnancy to achieve optimum blood levels. The latest McGill study suggests, however, that massive amounts – in this case, 20 times the recommended dosage – can be problematic, so moderation is key.

“We know there are definite benefits of folate,” says Dr. Deborah L. O’Connor, Director of Clinical Dietetics at Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto. “[With] any nutrient, you don’t want too little, you want enough, which is about in the middle, and too much usually gets us into trouble.” What’s important, she adds, is that “possible, unproven risks associated with excessive amounts of the stuff should not dissuade anyone from taking the recommended dose.”

To read the full article, visit The National Post.

January 14, 2011

Folic-acid levels in store-bought spinach as much as double after nine days under fluorescent lighting, according to new research highlighted in the January 2011 issue of Reader’s Digest. The harsh supermarket lighting mimics sunlight closely enough to trigger photosynthesis, which also increases levels of vitamins C, K and E. Why is that important? Folic acid, also known as folate or folacin, is a B vitamin essential for the healthy development of a baby’s spine, brain and skull. Proven to help reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) by as much as 70% if taken before pregnancy, it is also believed to reduce the risk of other birth defects such as cleft lip and palate. For more information, visit

January 06, 2011

A recent report in the Journal of Biological Chemistry notes if all women who could become pregnant consumed recommend amounts of folic acid before and during pregnancy, the risks of neural tube defects such as spina bifida could be decreased by 70%. Folic acid may also prevent other birth defects, including cleft lip and palate and heart defects, which are diagnosed in the second trimester when it is too late for medical intervention. Read more...

December 22, 2010

Prenatal iron and folic acid supplementation has a significant impact on a child’s intellectual level, motor ability and ability in school, according to new research funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Parul Christian, an expert in international health at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association, adds that many children in poor communities would benefit from better prenatal programs that include low-cost nutritional supplements. To read more, visit Fox News.

April 14, 2002

A recent Ipsos-Reid survey conducted among Ontario women between the ages of 18 and 40 years old, on behalf of the FAAO, found that while 80% of women have heard of folic acid, only 38% understand that folic acid must be taken before conception to help reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs). In fact, 41% of women hadn’t heard of NTDs and only 42% understood that folic acid may reduce the risk of having a baby born with NTDs, including spina bifida. Read the full release

March 21, 2002

The Folic Acid Alliance of Ontario (FAAO) today launched its first-ever, province-wide campaign to promote awareness of folic acid and its benefits in helping to prevent birth defects. A B vitamin essential for the healthy development of a baby’s spine, brain and skull, folic acid can reduce the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect (NTD) by as much as 70% if taken prior to conception and during the first trimester. Read the full release