Mothers who took folic acid delivered more full-term babies with healthier hearts, and women who took multi-vitamins had more babies with a normal weight, in four new studies.
A study of over 34,000 pregnancies found that, compared to women who did not take folic acid, women who took folic acid supplements for more than a year before becoming pregnant were 70 percent less likely to deliver a preterm baby.
In another folic acid study, Canadian doctors found a decrease of 6 percent in the rate of heart defects in babies born in the seven-year period after the government began requiring manufacturers to fortify certain foods with folic acid (1998) compared to the nine-year period before fortification. Researchers suggest that the government should encourage women who plan on becoming pregnant to begin taking folic acid for three months before conception.
In a related study, doctors analyzed over 6,300 pregnancies and found that, compared to women who did not take folic acid, women who took folic acid after becoming pregnant were 39 percent less likely to deliver a baby with a low birth weight and women who started folic acid before pregnancy were 57 percent less likely to deliver a baby with a low birth weight.
Doctors in a pregnancy analysis reviewed 13 studies of moms who took multi-vitamins while pregnant. The multi-vitamins in the studies contained between 8 and 28 nutrients. Overall, women who took multi-vitamins were 17 percent less likely to deliver a baby with a low birth weight compared to women who did not take multi-vitamins. Babies whose moms took multi-vitamins were 19 percent less likely to have a low birth weight compared to babies whose moms took only iron and folic acid. Researchers explained that low birth weight is the most common cause of infant mortality worldwide and, based on the findings from this study, are urging the World Health Organization—which recommends only iron and folic acid for pregnant moms—to expand its recommendations to include multi-vitamins.