Adequate folate intakes during pregnancy may decrease risk of emotional problems for the offspring

January 5, 2012

According to a new study from the Netherlands, low maternal folate status during early pregnancy may be associated with a higher risk of childhood emotional problems.

In the population-based cohort study, plasma folate concentrations were measured and folic acid supplement use was assessed for women in early pregnancy (1). In addition, children’s emotional and behavioral prob-lems were assessed for 3209 children at the age of 3. The study results showed that children of mothers with prenatal folate deficiency were at higher risk of suffering emotional problems but not behavioral problems. A higher risk of emotional problems was also found in children whose mothers started using folic acid supple-ments late or did not use supplements at all than among children whose mothers started supplementation before conception.

The researchers concluded that adequate maternal folate status during early pregnancy seems to be associ-ated with a decreased risk of emotional problems for their offspring. In earlier studies, maternal prenatal folate status has already been linked to neurodevelopmental disorders, but the association with child emo-tional and behavioral problems is still unclear.


  1. Steenweg-de Graaff J. et al. Maternal folate status in early pregnancy and child emotional and behavioral problems: the Generation R Study. Am J Clin Nutr. Published online May 2012.