Although taking folic acid supplements during the first trimester is considered common practice, not much is known about the effects of continued supplementation.
"Most expectant mothers know that taking folic acid supplements in the first three months of pregnancy is important for the baby's spinal development. Our study shows that there are potential psychological benefits for the child if supplements are taken throughout the pregnancy," said Professor Tony Cassidy, lead author of the study.
The study, which was presented at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society, found that children's emotional intelligence is improved if mothers take folic acid supplements throughout pregnancy.
Taking folic acid supplements could also improve psychological development in children.
"There is evidence that folic acid supplements taken during the first three months of pregnancy can have beneficial effects on children's brain development," said Cassidy.
The study was conducted through a randomised controlled trial of folic acid supplementation in pregnancy, said the authors monitored 39 children, aged seven, by asking their parents to answer questionnaires
"We wanted to investigate whether continued supplementation throughout pregnancy had any additional effects," said Cassidy.
The questionnaires included questions on the children's personalities, including level of resilience, relationship with others and how they express their emotions.
Out of the 39 mothers, 22 had taken folic acid supplements throughout the entire pregnancy whereas the remaining 17 only took it for the first three months.
Results showed children of mothers that continued the intake of folic acid throughout pregnancy had higher levels of emotional intelligence and resilience.
Indeed, analysis by the team suggested that folate level at 36 weeks pregnant could be an important predictor of emotional intelligence and resilience.
Source: The British Psychological Society
"Psychological developmental benefits for children of mothers taking Folic Acid Supplementation throughout pregnancy".
Authors: T. Cassidy, et al.