Yet Another Essential Nutrient for Pregnancy

All pregnant women are given a prenatal vitamin by their obstetrician. The implication is that what is in the prenatal is all the extra vitamins that a pregnant mother needs for herself and her fetus.

Recently after an enormous amount of data in the medical literature many prescription prenatal vitamins have start to add an essential fatty acid capsule that is necessary for brain development of the fetus in the uterus.

Integrative medicine doctors have been prescribing this essential fatty acid known as DHA for over 20 years. The information has been in the medical literature but not that literature that is commonly read by obstetricians. More and more studies have shown that DHA during pregnancy and in the first four years of a child's life are necessary to optimize the child's neurological and brain development.

There are other nutrients that the medical literature shows that are essential for pregnancy, and one that has been overlooked by all of the prescription prenatal vitamins that I have seen, is called CHOLINE.

Choline is an essential nutrient and it is usually considered part of the vitamin B complex. It is found in the fat that makes up cell membranes and in certain neurotransmitters. Choline has been found to be essential for the normal functioning of all cells, liver metabolism and the transportation of nutrients throughout the body. Choline can be produced within the body but the amount the body makes is often not sufficient to meet the individuals needs. Therefore choline must be consumed in the diet. Recent research has shown that only 10% or less of older children, men, women, and pregnant women in America are getting sufficient levels of choline on a daily basis.

High amounts of choline is found in foods such as eggs, chicken liver, beef liver, beef steak, cod, broccoli, peanut butter, and milk. I am happy to see that because choline is especially high in egg yokes, the Egg Industry has created a website that talks about choline.

In a pregnant woman choline works with folic acid to help promote brain and memory development in growing fetuses and newborn infants.
Now a new study has been published that shows in mice that a diet low in choline and vitamin B2, during pregnancy influenced the development of the fetus' heart. Specifically the mice that were born to choline deficient mothers had more heart defects, which were specifically ventricular septal defects. The vitamin B2 deficient mothers gave birth to  late embryos and smaller embryos. In addition, vitamin B2 deficiency resulted in decreased thickness of the offsprings' left ventricle in the heart.

The conclusion of the authors of this article were: "Low dietary choline and riboflavin affect embryonic growth and cardiac development in mice. Adequate choline and riboflavin may also play a role in the prevention of these pregnancy complications in women."

Given the increasing preponderance of evidence that choline is essential during pregnancy I have been using a specific prenatal vitamin that is fortified with choline. I believe that choline is the next nutrient that will be found to be essential for all pregnancies. I can only guess how many years it will be until the prescription prenatal vitamins will contain this nutrient. But I am happy to be using one that does contain this nutrient for all my pregnant patients. I like it so much that I have begun to private label it under my name.

Does your prenatal or your family's prenatal's include choline or are you making and sure enough that you are eating enough of the choline containing foods to get enough for the fetus? Let me know if you think I should make my Prenatal vitamin available on my website for the public?


Other resources and articles:

Egg Nutrition Center

Choline: Critical Role During Fetal Development and Dietary Requirements in Adults

USDA Database for the Choline Content
of Common Foods


About Dr. Soram Khalsa

As an MD, Dr Soram specializes in Integrative Medicine combining diet, nutrition, acupuncture, herbs and nutrition. Visit Dr Soram’s Healthy Living Store where you’ll find high-quality nutritional supplements:

  • Alysia Cotter

    I definitely think you should make them available. Love your updates. Miss being closer but best regards from London!

  • Thank you Alyssa! Its nice to hear from you! DR S