Periconceptional folic acid use considerably reduces the risk of neural tube defects. The aim of this study was to measure the effect of the national and the local 'Folic Acid Campaign' on periconceptional folic acid use. Before (1995 survey) and 1 year after the campaign (1996 survey), the awareness and use of folic acid was measured among pregnant women in four regions of the Netherlands. To this end, pregnant women who visited the midwife, general practitioner or obstetrician for the first or second prenatal visit were asked to complete a questionnaire. The results showed that use of folic acid for any period around conception increased from 25.1% in 1995 to 53.5% in 1996. Appropriate use (4 weeks before until 8 weeks after conception) increased from 4.8% in 1995 to 21.0% in 1996. No additional effect of the local Folic Acid Campaign was found (adjusted odds ratio = 1.0; 95% confidence interval = 0.7, 1.4). It was possible to conclude that folic acid use at the recommended time increased considerably as a result of the national and the local Folic Acid Campaign, but the target (use in 46% of women wishing to conceive) was not achieved. New health education programmes are needed to increase further its use at the appropriate times.