Major study shows folic acid improves children’s cognitive development if taken throughout pregnancy

The results of a follow up study from a randomised controlled clinical trial (FASSTT Offspring Trial) published in BMC Medicine (31st October 2019) show that children of mothers taking folic acid throughout pregnancy scored significantly higher in terms of cognitive development at age 7 years compared to those when folic acid supplementation was replaced with a placebo after the first trimester.

This study is the first to demonstrate that there are benefits for infant neurodevelopment from continued maternal folic acid supplementation beyond the first trimester.

70 children completed the assessment at age 7 years, and 39 at age 3 years. ‘At both time points, great proportions of children from folic acid supplemented mothers compared with placebo had cognitive scores above the median values.[i].

It is well known that folic acid reduces the risk of neural tube defects and although some women know it’s important to take folic acid in early pregnancy, few realise that it is essential for maternal tissue development throughout pregnancy. Furthermore, the results of this recent study concludes that continued folic acid supplementation throughout the second and third trimesters of pregnancy can influence the cognitive performance of their children up to 7 years of age which challenges the advice that women planning a baby should take a supplement containing 400mcg of folic acid until the 12th week of pregnancy. 

All Pregnacare supplements have always contained the exact 400mcg of folic acid as it contributes to maternal tissue growth during pregnancy which can be crucial in later pregnancy (24 – 42 gestational weeks), where it is recognized to be an important period for foetal brain growth.

i Cognitive performance was evaluated using the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI-III) and at 3 years using the Bayley’s Scale of Infant and Toddler Development (BSITD-III). In both assessments, greater proportions of girls and boys from folic acid supplemented mothers compared with placebo had cognitive scores above the median value of 10 (girls and boys) for the BSITD-III, and 24.5 (girls) and 21.5 (boys) for the WPPSI-III tests. McNulty et al. BMC Medicine (2019) 17:196