- Insufficient levels of vitamin B12 in women, particularly prior to and during conception, may increase the risk of their child being born with brain or nerve cord abnormalities.
- Individuals following plant-based diets, such as vegans and vegetarians, may be at a higher risk due to the prevalence of B12 in meat and animal-derived products.
- Vitamin B12 plays a crucial role in nerve functioning and red blood cell production, hence women with B12 deficiencies may not only jeopardize their own health but also increase the likelihood of their babies being born with severe birth defects.
- Women with a deficiency of B12 significantly increase their risk of having a child with neural tube defects. The risk is three times greater for women with less than 250 ng/L of B12, and five times greater for those with less than 150 ng/L (a deficiency).
- The study recommends that all women planning on having children should strive to maintain their B12 levels above 300 ng/L and consume the recommended daily amount of vitamin B12 along with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid.
Women with insufficient vitamin B12 in their bloodstream, both prior to and during conception, may be at a higher risk of giving birth to a child with brain or nerve cord abnormalities, new research proclaims.
Vegans and Vegetarians at Higher Risk
Those following plant-based diets, namely vegans and vegetarians, could be at a higher risk due to the prevalence of B12 in meat and animal-derived products, according to findings by a collective research team from the US and Ireland. The findings were presented in the March edition of a well-known pediatric journal.
The study revealed that women deficient in B12 are at least 2.5 times more likely to give birth to a child with neural tube defects, leading to complications such as partial paralysis, or even worse, mortality, when compared to women with optimal B12 levels.
The Significant Role of Vitamin B12
Dr. Duane Alexander, head of an esteemed National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, stated in a press release by a subsidiary of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, “Vitamin B12 is a crucial component for nerve functioning and red blood cell production. This study implies that women with B12 deficits may not only endanger their own health but also increase the likelihood of their offspring being born with severe birth defects.”
The team of researchers examined blood samples from numerous women in the early stages of pregnancy. These women were from Ireland, a country notorious for high neural tube defect rates and were either known to carry babies with this disorder or previously given birth to a baby with the condition.
Augmenting Risk with Deficiency
Women who had less than 250 ng/L of B12 in their system before pregnancy had approximately three times the risk of birthing children with neural tube defects compared to women with higher B12 levels. For women with B12 levels less than 150 ng/L, considered a B12 deficiency, the risk was five times more than women with higher levels.
The researchers utilized statistical methods to concentrate solely on B12 levels and exclude the role of folic acid, another nutrient known to help evade neural tube defects for pregnant women. The authors of the study observed that while B12 and folate are involved in several fundamental biochemical reactions, a deficit in either B12 or folate boosted the risk of having a child with a neural tube defect.
While requiring further validation from additional studies, the authors recommended that women should maintain vitamin B12 levels above 300 ng/L prior to conception. Dr. James L. Mills, a study co-author and senior investigator in the NICHD division of epidemiology, statistics, and prevention research, pressed further, suggesting that all women of childbearing age should consistently consume the recommended daily quantity of vitamin B12, along with a minimum of 400 micrograms of folic acid.
For more insights into enjoying a healthy pregnancy, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.