Study protocol for a randomised controlled trial evaluating the effect of folic acid supplementation beyond the first trimester on maternal plasma unmetabolised folic acid in late gestation

Dian Sulistyoningrum, Tim Green, Debbie Palmer, Thomas Sullivan, Simon Wood, Maria Makrides, Monika Skubisz, Karen P. Best

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction Taking folic acid containing supplements prior to and during early pregnancy reduces the risk of neural tube defects. Neural tube defects occur prior to 28 days postconception, after which, there is no proven benefit of continuing to take folic acid. However, many women continue to take folic acid containing supplements throughout the pregnancy. At higher intakes, folic acid is not converted to its active form and accumulates in circulation as unmetabolised folic acid (UMFA). Recently, concerns have been raised about possible links between late gestation folic acid supplementation and childhood allergy, metabolic disease and autism spectrum disorders. We aim to determine if removing folic acid from prenatal micronutrient supplements after 12 weeks gestation reduces circulating levels of maternal UMFA at 36 weeks gestation. Methods and analysis This is a parallel-design, double-blinded randomised controlled trial. Women ≥12 and <16 weeks' gestation with a singleton pregnancy and able to give informed consent are eligible to participate. Women (n=100; 50 per group) will be randomised to receive either a micronutrient supplement containing 0.8 mg of folic acid or a micronutrient supplement without folic acid daily from enrolment until delivery. The primary outcome is plasma UMFA concentration at 36 weeks gestation. Secondary outcomes include red blood cell folate and total plasma folate concentration. We will assess whether there is a difference in mean UMFA levels at 36 weeks gestation between groups using linear regression with adjustment for baseline UMFA levels and gestational age at trial entry. The treatment effect will be described as a mean difference with 95% CI. Ethics and dissemination Ethical approval has been granted from the Women's and Children's Health Network Research Ethics Committee (HREC/19/WCHN/018). The results of this trial will be presented at scientific conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals. Trial registration number ACTRN12619001511123.

Original languageEnglish
Article number040416
JournalBMJ open
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 16 Nov 2020


  • nutrition & dietetics
  • obstetrics
  • public health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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