Folic acid and pregnancy: Properties, medical uses and health benefits

Andrew E. Czeizel, István Dudás, Attila Vereczkey, Ferenc Bánhidy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


Among structural birth defects, i.e. congenital abnormalities, neural-tube defects are the common and severe congenital abnormalities of nervous system. Recent intervention trials showed that about 90% of neural-tube defects are preventable by periconception (at least one month before conception and at least two months after conception) folic acid-containing multivitamin, while about 70 % by periconception folic acid supplementation. In addition this method is appropriate to reduce the birth prevalence of cardiovascular malformations, the most common congenital abnormalities. These findings theoretically resulted in a breakthrough in the prevention of congenital abnormalities; nevertheless this method is not used frequently in medical practice. The four possible uses of periconception folic acid/multivitamin supplementation are presented: (i) dietary intake, but alone folate rich diet is not appropriate for the prevention of neural-tube defects and other congenital abnormalities; (ii) periconception folic acid/multivitamin supplementation, however, women with unplanned pregnancies cannot utilize this simple and cheap method because it needs the onset of folic acid/multivitamin use at least 1-3 months before conception; (iii) flour fortification with folic acid, but it is not used in Europe and (iv) the recent attempt for the use of combination of oral contraceptives with 6S-5-methyltetrahydrofolate ("folate") as a compromise because of the missed opportunities mentioned above. Recent studies have shown that folic acid, particularly during the third trimester can also reduce the rate of preterm births. In conclusion folic acid is able to reduce the occurrence of congenital abnormalities and preterm births, the two major factors of infant mortality and handicaps.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFolic Acid
Subtitle of host publicationProperties, Medical Uses and Health Benefits
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages37
ISBN (Print)9781621008675
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2012



  • Cardiovascular malformations
  • Folic acid
  • Multivitamins
  • Neural-tube defects
  • Peterm births
  • Prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

Czeizel, A. E., Dudás, I., Vereczkey, A., & Bánhidy, F. (2012). Folic acid and pregnancy: Properties, medical uses and health benefits. In Folic Acid: Properties, Medical Uses and Health Benefits (pp. 1-37). Nova Science Publishers, Inc..