Folic acid and iodine supplementation during pregnancy: how much do pharmacists know and which products are readily available?
Background To reduce risk of neural tube defects and iodine deficiency in pregnancy, pharmacists are well placed to provide information about folic acid and iodine supplementation during pregnancy. Little research has been conducted regarding pharmacists' knowledge about nutrient supplementation. Aims To assess pharmacists' knowledge about folic acid and iodine supplementation during pregnancy and to conduct an audit of pregnancy supplements available online. Methods A cross-sectional survey of community pharmacists working in regional NSW and an audit of pregnancy supplements available from Australian-based online pharmacies were conducted. Results All of the 41 community pharmacists surveyed had a good understanding about the need for folic acid during pregnancy, as compared to 73% in the case of iodine. In contrast to a high level of knowledge about the National Health and Medical Research Council recommendation of folic acid 400 micrograms/day in the first trimester, 73% of pharmacists did not know the National Health and Medical Research Council recommended dosage of 150 micrograms/day for iodine for the duration of pregnancy. In many cases, pharmacists' knowledge about the mandatory fortification program and dietary sources of both folic acid and iodine was also limited. Elevit, Blackmores and Megafol are pregnancy supplement brands most commonly recommended by pharmacists and also available for purchase online. Conclusion Additional education of pharmacists about iodine supplementation for pregnancy, the mandatory fortification program and good dietary sources of both folic acid and iodine would help to ensure that they are providing up-to-date evidence-based nutritional advice for pregnancy.