Not Thinking Ahead

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By: Radha McLean

Only half of women with type 1 diabetes begin taking folic acid before they get pregnant, according to the results of a survey taken in England. The failure of a significant number of women with diabetes to take this critical supplement is due to “lack of awareness of its importance,” say researchers. C.J. Wills, MRCP, of the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, UK, and colleagues reported their findings in the May issue of Practical Diabetes International.

Researchers conducted a phone survey of women with pre-existing type 1 who had visited the clinic at the University Hospital, Nottingham from 1996 to 1998. Of the 50 participants who had a combined total of 65 pregnancies, half (50.7 percent) began taking folic acid before they got pregnant. One third (34 percent) began taking the supplement once they found out they were pregnant and 15.4 percent didn’t take it at all—before or during pregnancy. Most (75.4 percent) of the women planned their pregnancies, and about half of those who planned did not get counseling before becoming pregnant. Most women (70.8 percent) already had at least one child. Researchers cited “lack of awareness” as the main reason for those who didn’t take folic acid.

Researchers were “disappointed,” according to the report, by the low number of women who had gotten pre-pregnancy counseling. They said that “women with [type 1 diabetes] should be informed about folic acid and offered pre-pregnancy counseling.” They went on to say, “It should not be assumed that women who have had a pregnancy know about folic acid.”

According to the report, 400 micrograms daily of supplemental folic acid is recommended one month prior to conceiving and during the first trimester of pregnancy.

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