Taking folic acid supplements for at least one year before conception reduces the risk of having a premature baby, a new study has found.
Although most pregnancies last about 40 weeks, approximately 10% of babies are born before 37 weeks.
Babies born prematurely are less likely to survive than full-term babies and are more likely to have breathing difficulties and learning or developmental disabilities.
Currently, there are no effective methods of preventing premature (preterm) births.
However, researchers found that women who have low levels of folate (folic acid) are more likely to give birth prematurely.
Folic acid supplements have been recommended in Ireland for child bearing women for many years, particularly those planning a pregnancy. They have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of neural tube defects.
In the US study of almost 35,000 women, taking folate supplements for at least one year before conception halved the risk of giving birth between 28 to 32 weeks gestation......