Nutrition during pregnancy influences the developing fetus, and identifying proper nutritional supplementation in pregnancy has been a popular topic of scientific study for decades. There is no doubt B12 is critical to human health, but just how important is B12 for pregnant women and their developing babies? A paper just released at Yale University has the answer. Considering that low birth weight and preterm birth cause half of all deaths within the first 28 days after a baby is born world-wide, this research could be pivotal.
When women are expecting the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency increases. The proportion of pregnant women with vitamin B12 deficiency ranges from a tiny percentage in certain Western states like Norway, to over two thirds in developing countries such as India. B12 deficiency is incredibly common, and when women get pregnant, the odds of becoming becoming B12 deficient increases.
So what happens to the infant of a B12 deficient mother? A new study out of Yale University determined there may be a link between vitamin B12 insufficiency during pregnancy and risk to the developing fetus. These factors could contribute to both low birth rates and pre-term birth.
The research, which synthesizes information from more than 18 studies from 11 different states and 11,216 pregnancies, discovered that although newborn birth weight is not affected by low rates of maternal vitamin B12 during pregnancy, B12 deficiency increases the risk of pre-term birth by 21 percent. These affects apply across income levels and quality of care.
The researchers underscore that there may be a few other reasons for the clear association between preterm birth and vitamin B12 deficiency. According to the researchers, more studies need to be done to confirm the evidence that support routine supplementation of vitamin B12 during pregnancy will enhance birth weight and duration of gestation.
Right now there are two trials being conducted to determine how B12 affects the development of a fetus, and more studies need to be completed. In the meantime, since B12 is a water soluble vitamin that leaves the body if it’s unneeded, a little extra B12 could do a body good.