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Motherisk News: Motherisk researchers find prenatal multivitamins effective in preventing wide range of serious birth defects

Researchers at Motherisk have found that prenatal vitamins fortified with folic acid can reduce the risk of a wide range of serious birth defects, including cardiovascular and limb defects, cleft palate, oral cleft, congenital hydrocephalus and urinary tract anomalies. This research is reported in the August 2006 issue of the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Canada.

The study examined the findings of 41 other research publications exploring the effects of multivitamin supplementation before conception and during the first trimester. This is the first systematic review of the evidence linking multivitamins to reduced risk of birth defects other than neural tube defects. The study did not find links between the multivitamins and the prevention of Down syndrome, pyloric stenosis, undescended testis or hypospadias.

"Clearly, this information is very important for any woman looking to give her baby the healthiest start possible," says Dr. Gideon Koren, the study's principal investigator and director of the Motherisk Program. "And with as many as one out of every 33 children in Canada being born with a serious congenital birth defect, this information has the power to make a big difference in the lives of many people."

As the study examined multivitamins containing folic acid in general, additional research is needed to determine which specific vitamins provide which protective effects, and to determine how much of the protective effects is attributable specifically to folic acid.

Other authors on the paper were Ingrid Goh and Enkelejde Bollano of SickKids and Thomas Einarson of the University of Toronto.

This research was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Research Leadership for Better Pharmacotherapy During Pregnancy and Lactation.

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The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is a health-care, teaching and research centre dedicated exclusively to children; affiliated with the University of Toronto. For general inquires please call: 416-813-1500.

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