In 1993 all women of childbearing age in the Netherlands were advised to take a daily 0.5 mg folic acid pill to reduce the risk for neural tube defects. This study describes both recent and past awareness and use of folic acid supplements in relation to socio-economic status in the Northern Netherlands. The consequences of a recent report of the Dutch Health Council report will be discussed as well.


In the most recent cross-sectional study (November 2000), pregnant women filled out a questionnaire. Out of 473 women, 461 were willing to cooperate. The highest fulfilled level of education was taken as an indicator for socio-economic status.


Seventy-seven percent (n = 357) of the respondents had heard about folic acid before being pregnant. Sixty-three percent (n = 289) knew about the protective effect for NTDs and 33% (n = 151) knew the entire advised period. Sixty-one percent (n = 265) of the respondents used folic acid in some part of the advised period and 36% (n = 164) used it in the entire advised period. Higher educated women knew more about folic acid and used it significantly more often in the periconceptional period than lower educated women.


Because compliance to proper use of folic acid was poor, food fortification in the Netherlands must be seriously considered. The Dutch Health Council wants to limit the fortification of food products to those products that are especially aimed for women who wish to become pregnant. The fortification of specific products instead of staple foods is a missed chance to reduce NTDs and possibly other birth defects and cardiovascular defects as well. Teratology 66:40–43, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.