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      Correlates of knowledge on birth defects and associated factors among antenatal mothers in Galle, Sri Lanka: a cross-sectional analytical study

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          Birth defects (BD) are considered a leading cause of childhood morbidity and mortality. Personal, cultural, and health care system barriers may increase the incidence of BD in low and middle income countries. In this study we assessed the knowledge of antenatal mothers on BD, associated factors, and prevention and management.


          Three hundred and fifty (350) antenatal mothers were surveyed using a pretested, self-administered questionnaire. The knowledge on BD was evaluated under 3 categories; knowledge on BD, knowledge on associated factors, and knowledge on prevention and management. The total scores were calculated for each category and converted into percentages. A higher percentage score indicates a high level of knowledge. Descriptive statistics and regression models were used for data analysis. Level of significance was considered as p < 0.05.


          Mean age of the participants was 28.7 years ( SD = 5.2). The age range was 17–44 years. Most of the participants (79%) had studied up to secondary or tertiary education. The average scores of knowledge on BD, associated factors, and prevention and management of BD were 57.6% (95% CI = 52.3–62.9%), 55.1% (95% CI = 49.8–60.4%) and 58.8% (95% CI = 53.5–64.1%) respectively. The average score on the overall total knowledge was 56.4% (95% CI = 51.1–61.7%). Mother’s level of education, monthly income of the family and number of clinic visits made by the mother were found to be positively associated with the overall knowledge. About 62% of the participants had taken folic acid (FA) preconceptionally, a major preventive factor of BD associated with the nervous system. Folic acid intake was positively associated with age and educational level, but negatively associated with parity. Media (36.9%) and Public Health Midwives (PHMs) (20%) were found to be the major sources of knowledge on BD, associated factors and prevention in this target group.


          The average overall knowledge on BD in this group of antenatal mothers was moderate. Thus, there is a need to improve the knowledge in eligible women to reduce the occurrence of BD, ideally before they become pregnant. Media and PHMs were seem to be the effective and possible resources that can be used to educate the community on BD, associated factors and prevention of BD in Sri Lanka.

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          The online version of this article (10.1186/s12884-018-2163-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          Most cited references 22

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          Impact of health education on knowledge and prevention behavior for congenital toxoplasmosis: the experience in Poznań, Poland.

          In 1991-1997 educational activities were undertaken in the Poznań region of Poland to promote health education for the prevention of toxoplasmosis. The effect of education was measured in 2710 pregnant women by a questionnaire survey. Knowledge of toxoplasmosis and its prevention was almost doubled within 4 years. Similarly, the proportion of women having antenatal serological tests for toxoplasmosis significantly increased. In the examined population the knowledge of how Toxoplasma gondii is transmitted/acquired was better than the knowledge of individual risk factors for congenital toxoplasmosis. Correct hygienic behaviors in pregnancy were often practised by women who lacked good knowledge of toxoplasmosis. The experience from this study suggests the possible effectiveness of including prevention of toxoplasmosis into the whole package of preventing infectious diseases in pregnancy and into healthy lifestyle promotion. Health educational activities need to be realized by modern promotional technologies in addition to making available traditional written educational texts. There is a considerable role of medical services in promotion of a hygienic behavior in pregnant women preventing congenital toxoplasmosis in their offspring. Health education should be especially tailored to the population of pregnant women below the age of 21.
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            Maternal knowledge, attitude and practice on folic acid intake among Arabian Qatari women.

            Periconceptional folic acid supplementation is effective in preventing primary and secondary neural tube defects (NTDs) and other congenital defects. It is important to estimate folate intake and knowledge in women of child-bearing age, in relation to risk of congenital anomalies. The aim of this study was to determine the level of knowledge about the usefulness of periconceptional folic acid supplementation in a sample of women in the child-bearing age. This is a cross-sectional survey. Eleven primary health care centers and women's hospital in Qatar. A multistage sampling design was used and a representative sample of 1,800 Qatari women aged between 18 and 45 years were surveyed during the period June to November 2004. One thousand four hundred and eighty women (82.2%) expressed their consent to participate in this study. A confidential, anonymous questionnaire was completed by the selected subjects assessing folic acid awareness. Questionnaires were administered to women who were seeking routine antenatal care at health centers and Women's Hospital. Questions covered knowledge and use of folic acid supplements, pregnancy intention, and demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. Factors affecting study outcomes were examined individually by computing crude odd ratios and adjusted for other covariates using unconditional logistic regression. Out of 1480 women surveyed, 53.7% of them reported that they heard of folate. Of these, only half of the subjects knew that folate was something important. Overall, 20.3% of the respondents took folic acid. The most common information sources on folate were physicians (63.4%), and newspapers/magazine/books (21.7%). From those who heard of folate, only 14% knew that it can prevent birth defects. 40.6% of the subjects who heard folate were aware that green leafy vegetables were fortified with folic acid. In univariate analysis, awareness of folic acid was significantly associated with education of mother. Again, higher educated women (41.3%) knew more about folic acid and used it more often in the periconceptional and first trimester period. Awareness and use of folic acid was less prevalent among Qatari women. Educated women were aware of the importance of the intake of folic acid. The study findings suggested possible avenue for intervention to increase awareness and intake of folic acid.
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              Trends in Folic Acid Awareness and Behavior in the United States: The Gallup Organization for the March of Dimes Foundation Surveys, 1995–2005

              Objective: To summarize changes in folic acid awareness, knowledge, and behavior among women of childbearing age in the United States since the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) 1992 folic acid recommendation and later fortification. Methods: Random-digit dialed telephone surveys were conducted of approximately 2000 women (per survey year) aged 18–45 years from 1995–2005 in the United States. Results: The percentage of women reporting having heard or read about folic acid steadily increased from 52% in 1995 to 84% in 2005. Of all women surveyed in 2005, 19% knew folic acid prevented birth defects, an increase from 4% in 1995. The proportion of women who reported learning about folic acid from health care providers increased from 13% in 1995 to 26% in 2005. The proportion of all women who reported taking a vitamin supplement containing folic acid increased slightly from 28% in 1995 to 33% in 2005. Among women who were not pregnant at the time of the survey in 2005, 31% reported taking a vitamin containing folic acid daily compared with 25% in 1995. Conclusions: The percentage of women taking folic acid daily has increased modestly since 1995. Despite this increase, the data show that the majority of women of childbearing age still do not take a vitamin containing folic acid daily. Health care providers and maternal child health professionals must continue to promote preconceptional health among all women of childbearing age, and encourage them to take a vitamin containing folic acid daily.

                Author and article information

                BMC Pregnancy Childbirth
                BMC Pregnancy Childbirth
                BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
                BioMed Central (London )
                17 January 2019
                17 January 2019
                : 19
                [1 ]ISNI 0000 0001 0103 6011, GRID grid.412759.c, Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, , University of Ruhuna, ; Galle, Sri Lanka
                [2 ]ISNI 0000 0001 0103 6011, GRID grid.412759.c, Department of Paediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, , University of Ruhuna, ; Galle, Sri Lanka
                [3 ]GRID grid.466905.8, Family Health Bureau, , Ministry of Health, ; Colombo, Sri Lanka
                © The Author(s). 2019

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Funded by: FundRef, University of Ruhuna;
                Award ID: 2016/RU/PG-R/16/11
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                Research Article
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                © The Author(s) 2019


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