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Vitamin B12 intake of pregnant women may influence infant crying behavior

March 24, 2011

Women with an increased intake of vitamin B12 during the first three months of pregnancy are up to eight times more likely to have babies who cry less according to a new Dutch study.

In the study, 2921 women around the 12th pregnancy week completed a questionnaire, covering their lifestyle as well as potential psychological problems, and donated a blood sample to determine vitamin B12 and folate concentrations of their serum (1). Infant crying behavior was measured through a questionnaire about three months after delivery. The study results showed that low vitamin B12 concentrations during pregnancy were associated with excessive infant crying (an average of three hours a day). Adjustment was made for factors such as maternal age, maternal smoking and psychological problems. Folate concentrations, however, were not associated with excessive infant crying. In addition, analysis suggested a strong association between increased infant crying behavior (based on how often and for how long babies cried) and women with high levels of psychological problems during pregnancy, such as depressive symptoms and anxiety.

The researchers commented that this study provides first evidence for an early nutritional origin in infant crying behavior. Excessive crying may be due to mothers whose blood was low vitamin B12 giving birth to babies who do not have a fully developed nervous system. The sleep hormone melatonin may not be released fully causing longer crying episodes than exhibited by babies whose mothers had high levels of vitamin B12. In addition, a lack of vitamin B12 may reduce the brain’s production of myelin, which protects nerve cells, leading to more sleeplessness.

Occurring naturally in red meat, fish and dairy products, vitamin B12 is known to help the development of the brain and nervous system in unborn children. However, pregnant women are advised to avoid liver, raw eggs, soft cheese and shellfish, all of which contain vitamin B12. In later life, the vitamin may also help to prevent dementia, heart disease and fertility problems.

References

  1. Goedhart G. et al. Maternal vitamin B-12 and folate status during pregnancy and excessive infant crying. Early Human Development. 2011.