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2008 research finding

Vitamin supplements reduce the risk of placental abruption

Intake of folate and other vitamin supplements before and during pregnancy reduces the risk for placental abruption by up to 30 percent.This is shown in a study from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the University of Bergen.

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Placental abruption is a complication of pregnancy that causes a premature separation of the placenta from the uterus wall. This usually occurs in the third trimester, often leading to blood loss that can be life-threatening for both mother and baby. In Norway, it affects 4 in 1000 pregnancies.

Even in the 1960s studies showed that a low folate intake could lead to placental abruption.  Later, it was also observed that women with abruptions have a lower concentration of other vitamins in the blood compared with those who did not have this complication.  An increased concentration of the amino acid homocysteine, a marker for Vitamin B deficiency, is also seen in these women.

Data was collected from the Medical Birth Registry about the use of folic acid (folate in the form of supplement) and multi-vitamins before and during pregnancy, plus the placental abruptions since 1998. Based on this data, Roy Miodini Nilsen and co-workers found that women who take these vitamin types have a 20-30 percent reduced risk of placental abruption.

When the authors investigated the link between vitamin supplements and abruption that occurred before 37 full weeks of pregnancy, the reduction in risk for abruption was even higher (25-50 percent). The study, which is the biggest of its kind, confirms the old hypothesis that vitamin deficiency can be involved in development of abruption.

In Norway, women who plan to become pregnant are recommended to take 0.4 mg folic acid daily for one month before pregnancy and for the first 2-3 months of pregnancy. The recommendations for increased folic acid intake in pregnancy are intended to prevent spina bifida and related neural tube defects. In the last few years, studies have shown that folic acid intake before and in early pregnancy can have a favourable effect on other abnormalities and health problems related to pregnancy and birth.

Reference

Nilsen RM, Vollset SE, Rasmussen SA, Ueland PM, Daltveit AK. Folic Acid and Multivitamin Supplement Use and Risk of Placental Abruption: A Population-based Registry Study. Am J Epidemiol 2008. Jan 10; [Epub ahead of print]