About one in four pregnant women will experience a miscarriage. At least two thirds of miscarriages are believed to be due to a genetic abnormality in the embryo. It can make it even more emotionally devastating if the pregnancy was initiated following an IVF procedure with an embryo that had already been genetically tested prior to transfer. That’s why it is so very important that we investigate other—possibly preventable—causes of early pregnancy loss. One emerging strategy is to optimize vitamin B3 intake.
Vitamin B3—also called niacin—serves as critical component of energy within cells to support growth and development. It also serves as a key signal for a group of chemicals that are necessary to repair DNA as well as regulate your body’s stress response. These are all critical functions to initiating and maintaining a successful pregnancy. Unfortunately not all pregnant women are getting enough vitamin B3.
Surprisingly, not all prenatal vitamins contain niacin / B3. One study that was following over 500 pregnant women found that despite following a healthy diet and taking daily supplements—a high percentage of women were vitamin B3 deficient. More recently, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated that giving a group of high risk pregnant women a high dose vitamin B3 supplement seemed to reduce the risk of both miscarriage and birth defects. Additional studies are on-going to see how this may translate into women with average risk.
While we await the results of future studies in this area, there are some safe and simple steps you can consider to help minimize your risk of miscarriage:
- Eat fortified cereals and grains
- Include blueberries and grapes as part of your healthy diet—they contain a chemical pterostilbene which can enhance Vitamin B3 activity
- Check your prenatal vitamin to confirm that it has at least 20 mg of Vitamin B3
- Talk to your provider about whether or not you should consider a Vitamin B3 supplement
Robert Greene, MD, FACOG
Conceptions Reproductive Associates of Colorado