HEALTH: Folic acid & vitamin B12 for pregnant women prevents birth defects

Mothers-to-be should take vitamin B12 to prevent their children developing birth defects such as spina bifida, a charity has said.

New research suggests that taking the supplement alongside folic acid will further help prevent the series of birth defects that affect the development of the spine and central nervous system.

Women who are trying to conceive, or who are in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, are already advised to take 400 micrograms of folic acid each day.

But the charity Shine, which helps individuals and families affected by spina bifida and hydrocephalus, is recommending that pregnant women, and those trying to conceive, should take 2.5mcg of B12 once a day with a meal.

It’s thought taking vitamin B12 alongside folic acid may be more effective than taking folic acid alone.

The recommendation comes after a new report from a leading authority on the issue, Professor John Scott, founder of the Vitamin Research Unit at the Institute of Molecular Medicine, Trinity College, Dublin.

He concluded: ‘It is clear that, as well as the addition of a folic acid supplement (400 mcg per day), the addition of a vitamin B12 component of at least 2.5 mcg per day would bring about a further significant and worthwhile risk reduction for neural tube defects.’