Background: Asthma is one of the most common chronic childhood diseases. While folic acid supplementation around conception helps prevent neural tube defects, an animal model suggests that it may be a risk factor for respiratory diseases, although epidemiologic studies have had conflicting results. We investigated the timing of folic acidcontaining prescription filling during pregnancy and child asthma. Methods: In a retrospective cohort study of 104,428 children, born 1996-2005, and their mothers enrolled in Tennessee Medicaid, we investigated the association of filling folic acid-containing prescriptions during pregnancy and childhood asthma at ages 4.5-6 years. We categorized women into exposure groups based on prescription filling centered around the first trimester: no folic acid prescription exposure, exposure in first trimester only, exposure after first trimester, and exposure in first trimester and beyond. We defined asthma using asthma-specific healthcare visits and medication fills. Using logistic regression models, we investigated the relationship adjusting for potential confounders. Results: Overall 15% of children had asthma. Compared with children born to women with no folic acid prescription exposure, children born to women with exposures in the first trimester only or first trimester and later had increased relative odds of asthma (adjusted odds ratios = 1.2, 95% confidence interval = 1.1, 1.3, and 1.2, 95% confidence interval = 1.2, 1.3); no association was seen in children born to women exposed after the first trimester. Conclusion: Timing of folic acid-containing prescription filling during pregnancy was associated with childhood asthma. Our findings contribute to understanding of the role of prenatal nutritional supplements on child respiratory health.
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