Folate levels during pregnancy affect offspring neurodevelopment

18 Nov 2020
The demands for folate increase during pregnancy due to its role in nucleic acid synthesis.

Serum folate levels during pregnancy correlate with the child’s neurodevelopment at 2 years of age, particularly in terms of language development, a recent study has shown. Folate supplementation may be a valuable nutritional intervention to consider.

Using chemiluminescent microparticle immunoassays, researchers measured maternal folate concentrations at 12–14, 22–26, and 34–36 weeks of gestation. The Gesell Development Scale (GDS) was employed to assess offspring neurodevelopment at 2 years of age according to the following subscales: gross and fine motor, language, and adaptive and social behaviours.

In the 180 singleton children enrolled, the mean birth weight was 3,358.6±420.8 g, and almost half were delivered through caesarean section. Serum folate levels dropped from 33.9 nmol·L–1 during early pregnancy to 26.7 nmol·L–1 during late pregnancy. This was despite the large jump in the prevalence of folic acid supplement use, from 38.9 percent before to 94.4 percent during early pregnancy.

Multivariate linear regression analysis found that folate concentrations during pregnancy had a significant impact on the offspring’s neurodevelopmental outcomes.

In particular, each 10-nmol·L–1 increase in serum folate levels during late pregnancy correlated to a significant jump (β, 3.1, 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 0.6–5.5) in the language domain score of the GDS. Adjusting for maternal smoking and child weight gain attenuated this interaction.

In addition, the researchers also saw that high serum folate during early pregnancy had a significant adverse effect on the offspring’s fine motor skills (β, –2.0, 95 percent CI, –4.0 to –0.1).

“[T]he results need to be examined in future studies with larger sample size and more comprehensive measurements of maternal folate status and children neuropsychological development,” the researchers said.

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