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Prenatal multivitamins reduce birth defects

As per the results of a Canadian study, a multivitamin pill should be taken daily by all women of childbearing age to reduce risks of having a child with birth defects.//

According to the study, the possibility of a wide range of severe birth defects like neural tube defects such as spina bifida, brain-damaging hydrocephalus, heart malformations, truncated or missing limbs, urinary-tract abnormalities and cleft palate can be drastically reduced by ensuring an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals by taking a single, inexpensive pill on a daily basis.

"The data are really very striking. It seems almost too good to be true that a prenatal multivitamin can have such an impact. But it is true," Gideon Koren, director of the Motherisk Program at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, said in an interview.

It is already known from previous study that increase in folic acid levels in the diet of a pregnant woman with supplements and fortification of foods could virtually eliminate horrific birth defects such as spina bifida.

However, a far more wide-ranging effect from prenatal multivitamins is revealed in this study published in yesterday’s edition of the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of Canada.

"This is more than folic acid and it's not just spina bifida," Dr. Koren said. Based on the study, he said, “All women of childbearing age should be taking a prenatal vitamin daily. Because half of all pregnancies are unplanned and almost all birth defects develop in the first trimester.”

However, a specific prenatal multivitamin should be taken by them, he said. Prenatal multivitamins differ from the standard multivitamins in 3 ways; more folic acid, more iron and less vitamin A -- high levels can be harmful to the fetus.

The study is a meta-analysis, a collection of earlier published studies. Dr. Koren said, “Research has shown, in dribs and drabs, the possible benefits of prenatal multivitamin
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