Immigrant women are less likely than those born in Canada to take folic acid before getting pregnant. Folic acid, also known as folate or vitamin B9, cuts the risk of neural tube defects in babies in half. A groundbreaking study by St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto with Health Canada and the University of Toronto reveals that while 61 per cent of Canadian-born females took folic acid supplements in the three months preceding conception, the rates were significantly lower among women born in the Caribbean or Latin America (41 per cent), Sub-Sahara Africa (44 per cent), Northern Africa or the Middle East (31 per cent), or South Asia (46 per cent). What’s more, only 39 per cent of women who have lived in Canada for four years or less took folic acid, compared to 64 per cent of those who have lived here for 17 years or longer. The researchers say this study emphasizes the need to educate immigrant women on the importance of taking folic acid before getting pregnant, either via a non-English pamphlet or by dispensing free supplements.