Supplement guideline failure

Three quarters of pregnant women are not adhering to recommended folic acid and iodine supplementation guidelines

 An online survey of 857 pregnant women found only 23% adhered to iodine supplement recommendations, while a slightly higher 27% were correctly supplementing their folate levels.

The finding shows that knowledge of, and adherence to, supplement recommendations needed to be improved during preconception and pregnancy said the authors, from the University of South Australia.  

“For both recommendations, adherence was positively predicted by awareness of the recommended duration of supplementation,” the authors said. “However, despite the majority of women being aware of the recommended timing of IS, few women adhered to this recommendation”.

“Further research is needed to explore strategies for increasing adoption of the IS recommendation, particularly given that a large percentage of pregnancies are unplanned, and supplementation is recommended preconceptually”.

The major healthcare providers in pregnancy were shown to be the most influential and preferred sources of nutrition information, the survey found.

GPs were the primary source of recommendations to take folic acid and iodine, and also to take multivitamin supplements. Obstetricians, midwives and family/friends were also important sources.  

They may “therefore play an important role in increasing nutritional knowledge and adoption of both IS and PFS recommendations in preconception and pregnancy,” the researchers said.

However, available information suggested pharmacists, GPs and nurses/midwives needed further training in providing the necessary advice, they said.

“Determining which methods of communication are most effective among women of childbearing age warrants further investigation, especially as women may seek health information from a range of sources, including GPs, pharmacies, women’s health clinics, sexual health services, telephone helplines, traditional mass media as well as the internet and social media, which are able to reach more diverse audiences,” they said.

Four-fifths (80%) of the women said they had been advised to take a nutritional supplement during pregnancy, and 65% were advised to do so pre-conception.

The authors also found that 54% of the women were unable to identify any good dietary sources of iodine, while 43% were unable to identify good sources of folate.

The study was published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health

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