There are many potential complications of pregnancy that can affect the mother, the baby, or both. If a pregnancy ends unexpectedly on its own, it is termed a miscarriage. When a baby growing in the womb develops problems that affect organ function, development, or appearance, it is termed a congenital malformation or birth defect. Now, researchers in prenatal care have made a landmark discovery and found that vitamin B3 could be useful in preventing miscarriage and some types of birth defects.
What is Vitamin B3?
Also known as niacin, vitamin B3 is essential for overall health, brain function, prevention of heart disease (reducing bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol), and skin quality. The vitamin occurs naturally in the body and can be obtained from dietary sources such as tuna, chicken, red meat, peanuts, lentils, and whole grains.
Pregnancy and Vitamins
Pregnant women around the world receive prenatal vitamins to avert miscarriage and prevent birth defects. These vitamins cover any nutritional deficiencies in the mother’s diet. A prenatal vitamin contains a number of minerals and vitamins, including folic acid, calcium, and iron.
- Folic acid is known to help prevent defects in the brain and spinal cord such as spina bifida.
- Calcium helps maintain the mother’s bone density as she provides calcium for bone growth in her baby.
- Iron helps in transporting oxygen in the blood of both the mother and the baby.
Vitamin B3 and Prenatal Health
Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine has shown that in some families with multiple birth defects, mutations disrupt the production of a protein known as NAD. NAD is synthesized from an amino acid called tryptophan and is essential for development. Therefore, NAD deficiency is associated with birth defects. When researchers replicated NAD deficiency in laboratory mice, the mice developed birth defects similar to those seen in humans. However, when the NAD deficiency was prevented in pregnant mice with vitamin B3 supplementation, the birth defects were prevented.
Landmark Discovery for Prevention of Miscarriages and Birth Defects
Studies show that there is a high percentage of vitamin B3 deficiency in pregnant women, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy. In light of this, vitamin B3 supplementation for the prevention of miscarriages and birth defects is a landmark discovery. The findings have prompted a dialogue in the medical community about the importance of vitamin B3 in prenatal care. Further research will determine what dosage of the vitamin will be most useful in reducing the possibility of miscarriages and birth defects.