Regular use of multivitamins may reduce the risk of birth defects in infants born to mothers with diabetes, results of a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia suggest.
Women of childbearing age are already advised to take supplements containing folic acid to protect against certain birth defects, but this study highlights the need for diabetic women to take multivitamins, researchers say.
Researchers were not able to isolate which nutrients may be producing a beneficial effect. But in the study, diabetic women who reported regular use of multivitamins were just as likely to have a healthy baby as non-diabetic women who also supplemented regularly. In contrast, women with diabetes who did not take a multivitamin were almost four times more likely to have a child with a birth defect than non-diabetic women who did not take a multivitamin.
The report emphasizes the importance of multivitamin use during periconception, which is defined as the three months prior to conception and the first three months of pregnancy. It is in the first weeks of pregnancy, when women often do not know they are pregnant, that the major organs and systems of the body are being formed.
Women who have poorly controlled diabetes in the first months of pregnancy are two to four times as likely to as non-diabetic women to have a child with birth defects. It is not known why diabetic women are at greater risk for having children with birth defects, but meticulous prenatal care has been effective in minimizing risks during these pregnancies. Birth defects of the brain, spinal cord and heart are more common in the children of diabetic women than in other women.
Regular supplementation was defined as taking multivitamins three or more times a week, and use had to occur during the three months prior to conception, as well as the first three months of pregnancy.
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