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Changes in folic acid supplementation behaviour among women of reproductive age after the implementation of a massive supplementation programme in China

Liu, Jufen, Jin, Lei, Meng, Qinqin, Gao, Lili, Zhang, Le, Li, Zhiwen, Ren, Aiguo
Public health nutrition 2015 v.18 no.4 pp. 582-588
Chinese people, cross-sectional studies, folic acid, interviews, learning, neural tube defects, pregnancy, pregnant women, rural areas, surveys, China
To examine changes in periconceptional folic acid supplementation behaviour among Chinese women of reproductive age after the implementation of a folic acid supplementation programme. Two cross-sectional surveys were conducted. One survey was before (2002–2004) and the other was after (2011–2012) implementation of the programme, both were conducted in two areas of China with different prevalence of neural tube defects. Information on supplementation behaviours was collected in face-to-face interviews with women early in their pregnancy. A total of 1257 and 1736 pregnant women participated before and after the programme, respectively. The rate of periconceptional folic acid supplementation increased from 15 % to 85 % in the high-prevalence population and from 66 % to 92 % in the low-prevalence population. However, more than half of the women began taking the supplement after learning they were pregnant. The proportion of women who began taking folic acid before their last menstrual period decreased after the programme in rural areas with both a high and low prevalence of neural tube defects. Although periconceptional folic acid supplementation among Chinese women increased substantially after the programme, supplementation was often initiated too late to be effective in preventing neural tube defects. Educational and promotional campaigns should focus on how to increase the rate of folic acid supplementation before pregnancy.