Babies whose moms took folic acid while pregnant had fewer heart defects, babies of moms who took folic acid plus iron were more likely to live, and vitamin B12 lowered birth defects, three new studies reveal.
Researchers in a folic acid study analyzed the nutrition of over 3,000 women who bore children with birth defects. Babies born to mothers who took at least 400 mcg of folic acid per day while pregnant were 18 percent less likely to have congenital heart defects compared to moms who did not. Preventing heart defects is a new benefit of folic acid, doctors said.
In a nutrition study, researchers gave a folic acid-iron supplement, a folic acid-iron-zinc supplement, a third supplement with 11 more micronutrients, or vitamin A alone as a placebo to more than 4,000 Nepalese women during pregnancy and after birth. Doctors explained that iron deficiency and anemia are common in this population. Compared to women who took vitamin A alone, moms who took folic acid with iron were half as likely to be anemic during and after pregnancy and their children were 45 percent more likely to live.
In a vitamin B12 study, doctors said that when they conducted this study in Ireland, before food manufacturers fortified foods with vitamins, birth defects were common. Doctors measured vitamin B12 levels at the 15th week of pregnancy in about 300 Irish women who were carrying a child with a birth defect, or whose previous children had a defect, and in about 900 pregnant women with no birth-defect history who were carrying healthy babies. As blood levels of vitamin B12 increased, mothers were much more likely to give birth to a healthy baby.