Multivitamin Use May Reduce Risk of Birth Defect
Women who regularly take a multivitamin beginning three months before conception and continuing through the first trimester of pregnancy may reduce the risk of their babies developing a birth defect called an omphalocele, according to a new study in Pediatrics.1 An omphalocele is an infrequent type of disorder in which the navel does not close correctly, leading to protrusion of the intestines through the navel. This type of birth defect affects 1 in 6,000 births in the United States.
Researchers identified 72 children born with an omphalocele and about 3,000 children from the same geographic region who did not have the birth defect. All of the mothers provided detailed information about their use of vitamins before and during their pregnancies. The mothers who reported taking a multivitamin regularly during the three months prior to conception and through the first trimester had a 60% reduction in risk of their child developing an omphalocele, compared with mothers who did not take a multivitamin during that time period. This is the first study to suggest that taking a multivitamin may prevent this type of birth defect.
Children born with an omphalocele often have other types of birth defects, such as improper closure of the spine (spina bifida). Although the underlying cause of an omphalocele is unknown, the authors suggest that the development of an omphalocele may share some common developmental pathways with other types of birth defects.
Research has shown that women who take supplemental folic acid before conception significantly reduce the risk of their children developing neural tube defects (a group of birth defects, including spina bifida, that can result in serious neurological damage).2 Most multivitamins contain folic acid, though more research is needed to determine whether folic acid is the component of multivitamins that reduces the risk of omphalocele. Use of a daily multivitamin before becoming pregnant may be a cost-effective way to prevent a birth defect.
1. Botto LD, Mulinare J, Erickson JD. Occurrence of omphalocele in relation to maternal multivitamin use: a population-based study. Pediatrics 2002;109:904–8.
2. Honein MA, Paulozzi LJ, Mathews TJ, et al. Impact of folic acid fortification of the US food supply on the occurrence of neural tube defects. JAMA 2001;285:2981–6.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of Garlic and Cholesterol: Everything You Need to Know (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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