Vitamin deficiency ‘common’ in pregnant women

Many pregnant women may be lacking in important vitamins, according to a new study.

The study was carried out by Professor Keith Godfrey of the University of Southampton, UK, and colleagues. They analysed information on the health of 1,729 pregnant women in several high-income countries including the UK, New Zealand and Singapore.

Participants were tested at conception and followed during the pregnancy and in some cases, future pregnancies.

The levels of at least one of the vitamins tested – B12, B6 and D, folic acid and riboflavin – were “marginal or low” in 90% of the women.

Details appeared yesterday in PLoS Medicine. Professor Godfrey believes that this rate of vitamin deficiency is a serious concern.

“The push to reduce our dependence on meat and dairy to achieve net-zero carbon emissions is likely to further deplete expecting mothers of vital nutrients, which could have lasting effects on unborn children,” he said.

“Our study shows that almost every woman trying to conceive had insufficient levels of one or more vitamin, and this figure is only going to get worse as the world moves towards plant-based diets.

“People think that nutrient deficiency only affects people in underdeveloped countries – but it is also affecting the majority of women living in high-income nations.”

Co-author Professor Wayne Cutfield of the University of Auckland in Australia, added: “The wellbeing of a mother ahead of conceiving and during a pregnancy has a direct influence on the health of the infant, their lifelong physical development, and ability to learn.”

Godfrey, K. et al. Maternal B-vitamin and vitamin D status before, during, and after pregnancy and the influence of supplementation preconception and during pregnancy. PLoS Medicine 5 December 2023; doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1004260


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