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27 September 2017

Young NI women three times more likely to check their smartphone in the morning than take a folic acid tablet

safefood campaign reminds women of the importance of taking folic acid every day

Young women across Northern Ireland are three times more likely to check their smartphone in the morning than take a folic acid tablet as part of their daily routine.

That’s the findings of new research by safefood as part of its campaign to remind women to make taking folic acid a daily habit.

Folic acid helps prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine including spina bifida and hydrocephalus, which are known as Neural Tube Defects (NTDs).

Research indicates that around half of pregnancies here are unplanned and currently Northern Ireland has the highest rate of babies born with spina bifida in the EU.

The new campaign therefore encourages all women who could become pregnant to take a folic acid supplement and safefood’s latest research aims to understand the daily routines of young women in Northern Ireland as it tries to give folic acid a relevant role in their lives every day.

The research into the morning routines of young women across Northern Ireland found that as well as personal hygiene habits, eating breakfast and getting dressed, two thirds of women (66%) admitted checking their smartphone is an essential morning ritual. Almost a third (33%) stated that checking their phone is the first thing they do when they wake up.

Other typical morning habits for women included: putting on make-up (73%), styling hair (55%), packing a lunch (29%) and doing housework (17%). Some find the motivation to exercise or go to the gym (11%) with a few even finding the time for meditation (4%).

Dr Marian O’Reilly Chief Specialist in Nutrition with safefood said, “It’s great to see that over 77 per cent of young women from Northern Ireland start their day with a healthy breakfast and 95 per cent brush their teeth every morning.

“What we want women to do is to take on a new healthy habit – take a daily 400microgram folic acid supplement - it’s even easier than brushing your teeth and takes only seconds to do.

“Folic acid prevents most neural tube defects like spina bifida in the first few weeks of pregnancy at a time when most women are unaware they’re pregnant.

With 50 per cent of all pregnancies in Northern Ireland unplanned, taking folic every morning gets you into a healthy habit, even if a baby is the last thing on your mind.”

The research also found that nearly one quarter of women spend £420 a year on beauty and skincare products, with 4 out of 10 spending up to £240. With some folic acid tablets costing less than 1p per day or just £1.80 for a year’s supply, this is one essential supplement that won’t eat into women’s health & beauty budgets.

Dr. Aileen McGloin, Communications Manager, Digital and Health at safefood said, “Over a quarter of the women (27%) in our survey said the best way to create a new healthy habit is to be prepared. With folic acid, keep it near your toothbrush, beside your bed or somewhere that will remind you to take it as part of your morning routine. This can be as simple as setting a daily reminder on your phone.”

The campaign wants to remind women to take a 400-microgram folic acid supplement every day because women cannot consume the amount of folic acid they need through food alone, even with fortified foods as part of their diet.

For more information visit or follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #FolicFacts

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