Birth Defects Linked to Low Vitamin B12 Levels

LAST MODIFIED: Thursday, April 25, 2019
Mother cuddling her new born baby

We all know that we should watch our diets carefully during pregnancy, but the results of a frightening new study show just how important nutrition can be and just how seriously we should take it if we want to give our children the best possible start in life.


B12 Deficiency and Pregnancy

A 2009 study showed that vitamin B12 deficiency is very closely linked to an increased chance of birth defects and disabilities. In fact, if you’re suffering from a vitamin B12 deficiency, you’re five times more likely to give birth to a baby with conditions like Spina Bifida. Based on the results of this disturbing study, healthcare professionals recommend that women ensure that they are getting enough vitamin B12 in their diets and that B12 supplements be taken by any woman of child bearing age.

Since foods like meat, chicken and eggs are richest in Vitamin B12, vegetarians and vegans are particularly at risk and should take B12 supplements for the sake of their own health as well as that of their unborn babies. Some women have intestinal problems that affect absorption of vitamin B12 and should go for regular vitamin B12 injections. These do not have to be administered by a doctor. You can inject yourself at home, or ask your pharmacist to help.

The type of birth defects found in babies whose mothers have a vitamin B12 deficiency are known as ‘neural tube defects‘, and these affect the brain and spinal cord. Obviously the implications of this are very serious. Spina Bifida can result in partial paralysis and anencephaly results in an underdeveloped brain and skull and is fatal.

You don’t even have to have a full-blown vitamin B12 deficiency to put your child at risk. A B12 level that is classed as ‘low’ (one step less drastic than a deficiency) also increases the risk of birth defects according to the study.

Fortunately, vitamin B12 is safe to use. Whether you take oral supplements or go for injections, you are unlikely to experience any side effects and it is impossible to overdose since your body excretes any vitamin B12 that it doesn’t need.

Keeping your body healthy is important to the health of your baby, but it also has benefits for you and your family. Consider using vitamin B12 as a supplement even when you are not pregnant. Forming good habits will make it easier to adapt to the type of diet and supplements you will need during pregnancy.