The Critical Role of Folic Acid in Preventing Birth Defects During Pregnancy

The journey towards ensuring a healthy pregnancy and the prevention of birth defects has been revolutionized by the discovery and implementation of folic acid supplementation. Research has consistently shown that adequate intake of folic acid before conception and during early pregnancy can markedly reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) in newborns (Webber et al., 2023). NTDs, which affect the brain and spinal cord, are among the most common congenital anomalies, and their prevention through folic acid supplementation represents a major public health triumph.

The historical significance of folic acid in preventing birth defects is both profound and transformative. It was in the late 20th century that the scientific community began to understand the relationship between folic acid deficiency and the risk of NTDs (Wilson & O’Connor, 2021). This understanding led to the implementation of public health initiatives advocating for folic acid supplementation among women of childbearing age. Such initiatives have been successful in reducing the incidence of NTDs in various populations globally (Ostrea Jr., 2022).

However, despite the proven benefits of folic acid, its widespread adoption faces challenges, including varying levels of awareness and adherence among pregnant women. Studies indicate that many women still do not take folic acid supplements as recommended, either due to a lack of knowledge or misconceptions about its importance (Kaldygulova et al., 2023). Addressing these gaps through education and accessible health care services is crucial for the further reduction of birth defects.

Today, folic acid supplementation stands as a cornerstone in prenatal care, with its ability to significantly reduce the risk of birth defects. The ongoing research and advocacy in this area not only highlight the importance of folic acid but also underscore the need for continuous efforts in educating and providing resources to expectant mothers (Liu et al., 2021). As we progress, the role of folic acid in ensuring healthier pregnancies and outcomes remains an essential aspect of maternal and child health.


Kaldygulova, L., Ukybassova, T., Aimagambetova, G., Gaiday, A., & Tussupkaliyev, A. (2023). Biological Role of Folic Acid in Pregnancy and Possible Therapeutic Application for the Prevention of Preeclampsia. Advances in Cardiovascular Diseases.

Liu, J., Li, Z., Ye, R., Ren, A., & Liu, J. (2021). Folic acid supplementation and risk for fetal abdominal wall defects in China: results from a large population-based intervention cohort study. British Journal of Nutrition.

Ostrea Jr., E. M. (2022). Prevention of Fetal Neural Tube Defect with Folic Acid Supplementation. Acta Medica Philippina.

Webber, D., Li, M., MacLeod, S. L., Tang, X., Levy, J., Karim, M. A., Erickson, S. W., Hobbs, C. A., & The National Birth Defects Prevention Study. (2023). Gene–Folic Acid Interactions and Risk of Conotruncal Heart Defects: Results from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Genes.

Wilson, R. D., & O’Connor, D. L. (2021). Maternal folic acid and multivitamin supplementation: International clinical evidence with considerations for the prevention of folate-sensitive birth defects. Preventive Medicine Reports.

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