Women's Knowledge and Attitudes about the Role of Folic Acid in Preventing Neural Tube Defects Open Access

Lean, Katherine (2013)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/qv33rx23v?locale=en


Background: Research has confirmed that neural tube defects can be prevented in pregnant women who take supplemental folic acid prior to conception until the end of the first trimester. Many women are unaware of the role of folic acid in the health of their unborn child. There is limited qualitative research regarding women's understanding of folic acid and how this shapes behaviors.

Objective: The purpose of this qualitative analysis was to understand the beliefs and attitudes of women of childbearing age who are capable of becoming pregnant towards folic acid and its importance in the prevention of neural tube defects.

Methods: A thematic analysis was conducted on secondary data from 16 focus group discussions with of women of childbearing age capable of becoming pregnant.

Results: This study showed that women study participants of reproductive age were unaware of the role that folic acid played in preventing neural tube defects. The information that women desired was simple, comprising concise facts about folic acid supplementation. After women learned about the importance of folic acid, their responses were typically of surprise, empowerment or skepticism. When asked of their current habits of vitamin consumption, intake was often inconsistent and required cues to action. Other barriers to folic acid intake were the cost of the supplements, side-effects and a lack of knowledge.

Conclusion: Twenty years after the proof that folic acid would prevent neural tube defects, most women of reproductive age still do not take folic acid vitamin supplements, a reminder of how difficult it is to change behavior and a reminder that fortification of foods needs to occur in conjunction with supplementation. An increase in the quantity and quality of information to women by healthcare professionals about folic acid and its role in the prevention of neural tube defects may aid in prevention. Additionally, an increase in health communication materials that address the importance of folic acid supplementation is needed. A mobile phone application which serves as a cue to action and a portal for folic acid information could be an effective tool for increasing consumption of supplements.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Background of Problem 1

Statement of Problem 3

Purpose of Study 4

Research Questions 4

Importance of Study 4

Literature Review5

The Burden of Neural Tube Defects 5

Folic Acid and Neural Tube Defects 6

Folic Acid Intake and Knowledge 12

Compliance 14

Methodology 17

Study Design 17

Study Context 18

Study Population and Data Collection 19

Focus Group Discussions 20

Data Analysis 22

Data Quality and Study Limitations 23



Implications of Results 34

Further Research 38



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