Background: In many countries current recommendations are that women take a daily 400ug folic acid supplement, from before conception until the end of the 12th week of gestation, for the prevention of neural tube defects. Low folate status is associated with an elevated concentration of plasma total homocysteine (tHcy), a risk factor that is associated with pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia. Methods: In a longitudinal study, tHcy and corresponding folate status were determined in 101 pregnant women at 12, 20 and 35 weeks of gestation, in 35 non-pregnant control subjects sampled conconcurrently, and in a subgroup (n=21 pregnant, 19 non-pregnant women) at 3 days post-partum. Results: Plasma tHcy concentrations were significantly lower throughout pregnancy compared with control subjects, with values lowest in the 2nd trimester before increasing toward non-pregnant values in the 3rd trimester. Importantly, tHcy concentrations were lower in pregnant women taking folic acid supplements compared to those not, an effect which reached significance in the 3rd trimester (5.25 umol/l v 6.89 umol/l, P <0.05). Furthermore, during the 3rd trimester, tHcy concentrations were significantly higher in pregnant women with a history of miscarriage compared to those with no previous history (7.32 umol/l v 5.62 uÂmol/l, P <0.01). Conclusion: This is the first longitudinal study to show that homocysteine levels rise in late pregnancy towards non-pregnant levels; a rise which can be limited by enhancing folate status through continued folic acid supplementation. These results indicate a potential role for continued folic acid supplementation in reducing pregnancy complications associated with hyperhomocysteinaemia.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Biochemistry