10 February 2022

Folate cuts time to conception

Nutrition Pregnancy Women

Women with higher levels of folate intake, be it dietary or supplementary, fall pregnant more quickly.


Women with higher levels of folate intake, be it dietary or supplementary, fall pregnant more quickly than those with a lower intake, new research suggests.  

A study followed nearly 10,000 Danish and American women trying to conceive without fertility treatment. Around 4000 were from Denmark, where food is not fortified with folic acid, and almost 6000 from North America, where it is. 

Women with lower daily folate intakes were 5-8% less likely to conceive than those who had a daily dietary intake of 400 micrograms or more of folate. And those who had 250 micrograms or less daily were 19-20% less likely to do so over the seven-year study. 

Total folate intake over the course of the study was even more strongly associated with becoming pregnant quickly. 

But women with the lowest dietary intake improved their chances of conception if they took supplements, especially in North America. For American women, their chances of conceiving improved from a 51% lower chance of conceiving to only 21%, and in Denmark the gap shrunk from 21% to 8%.  

“It was great to see that the time to pregnancy was shortest in women that took both folic acid supplements and had a diet high in folate,” Dr Fleur Cattrall, medical director at Melbourne IVF, told TMR

Australian guidelines recommend that women get at least 400 micrograms of folate a day, and 600 micrograms when pregnant. And bread flour (apart from organic bread flour) must legally be fortified with folic acid

“We already know that a healthy diet reduces the time for patients to get pregnant, particularly a Mediterranean diet. But what I think is important about this study is that it shows in addition to folic acid, the women on the highest dietary folate conceived the fastest.” 

Dr Cattrall said that many folate-rich foods contained micronutrients that might also help people fall pregnant faster. 

“Folic acid supplementation is important. But it’s also important to counsel people planning pregnancy to ensure they have a diet rich in folate-containing foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains as this will decrease the time it takes for them to get pregnant,” she said. 

Human Reproduction 2022, online 20 January