Molloy AM, Kirke PN, Brody LC, Scott JM, Mills JL. (2008) Food Nutr Bull. 29(2 Suppl) S101-11; discussion S112-5
The importance of folate in reproduction can be appreciated by considering that the existence of the vitamin was first suspected from efforts to explain a potentially fatal megaloblastic anemia in young pregnant women in India.
Today, low maternal folate status during pregnancy and lactation remains a significant cause of maternal morbidity in some communities. The folate status of the neonate tends to be protected at the expense of maternal stores; nevertheless, there is mounting evidence that inadequate maternal folate status during pregnancy may lead to low infant birthweight, thereby conferring risk of developmental and long-term adverse health outcomes. Moreover, folate-related anemia during childhood and adolescence might predispose children to further infections and disease.
The role of folic acid in prevention of neural tube defects (NTD) is now established, and several studies suggest that this protection may extend to some other birth defects. In terms of maternal health, clinical vitamin B12 deficiency may be a cause of infertility or recurrent spontaneous abortion. Starting pregnancy with an inadequate vitamin B12 status may increase risk of birth defects such as NTD, and may contribute to preterm delivery, although this needs further evaluation. Furthermore, inadequate vitamin B12 status in the mother may lead to frank deficiency in the infant if sufficient fetal stores of vitamin B12 are not laid down during pregnancy or are not available in breastmilk. However, the implications of starting pregnancy and lactation with low vitamin B12 status have not been sufficiently researched.