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Folic acid helps cut risk of premature birth

Research highlights the benefits of taking folic acid before falling pregnant.
Women who supplement their diet with folic acid for a minimum of 12 months prior to falling pregnant can help reduce their risk of premature labour, research suggests.

A new study published in the journal PLoS Medicine found that taking folic acid supplements for at least a year before pregnancy cuts the risk of premature birth by between 50 and 70 per cent.

Previous studies have shown that folic acid supplementation before conception and continued into the first trimester of pregnancy helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.

Now, in response to the latest findings, Dr Alan Fleischman, senior vice president and medical director of the March of Dimes, said: "[The research] reinforces our message that every woman of childbearing age should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily."

Very early preterm births at 20 to 28 weeks can lead to greater risk of complications such as cerebral palsy, chronic lung disease and blindness, experts warn.

According to the Food Standards Agency, women who are trying for a baby should take a daily 0.4 mg (400 micrograms) folic acid supplement until the 12th week of pregnancy.

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