Published: 2022-04-25

Folic acid usage and associated factors among pregnant women attending a tertiary health facility in Nigeria

Justina O. Alegbeleye, Chioma O. Ozueh


Background: Folic acid (FA) is an essential water-soluble vitamin that cannot be synthesized in the human body; hence its major source is from diet. It plays a key role in embryonic development. FA supplementation in pregnancy reduces the risk of megaloblastic anaemia, preterm delivery and neural tube defects. The aim of the current study was to evaluate the use of FA and factors associated with uptake amongst pregnant women at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital.

Methods: A descriptive cross-sectional study involving 451 antenatal attendees at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital from 1 January to 31 March 2020. After consent was obtained, a structured interviewer-administered questionnaire was used to collect information from the women. Data was entered into a spread sheet and analyzed with SPSS version 25. The results are presented in means and percentages. The confidence interval was set at 95% and a p value of <0.05 was deemed statistically significant. Chi square test and Pearson’s correlation were used to determine association between usage of FA and variables.

Results: Most of the women, 258 (57.21%) were between the ages of 30 and 39 years and were primarily nulliparous 122 (27.1%). Moreover, two-thirds of them 330 (73.2%) had post-secondary education and nearly all 409 (90.7%) of the women were married. Majority 370 (82.0%) of the pregnant women were currently taking folic acid but only 109 (24.2%) commenced before pregnancy. Use of FA was significantly associated with socio-demographic characteristics such as age, marital status, level of education and occupation (p<0.05). In addition, parity, planned pregnancy, history of having a child with neural tube defect, and timing of commencement of folic acid were all significantly associated with folic acid usage (p<0.05).

Conclusions: Only a small proportion of pregnant women have used FA before their pregnancies. A public health policy or strategy to increase the pre-conceptional use of folic acid is needed.


Folic acid, Pregnancy, Usage, Port Harcourt, Southern Nigeria

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