Prenatal Choline and Baby’s Developing Brain: An essential nutrient for a happier, alert child JUMPSTART YOUR BABY’S FUTURE MENTAL HEALTH!
Choline together with prenatal vitamins can protect your baby’s brain development. Stress and Depression, Marijuana, Alcohol and Nicotine, COVID and Flu, and other infections, your family’s history of mental problems…all adversely affect how your baby develops its brain during pregnancy and impact its future intelligence, ability to get along with others, and mental health. Giving your baby the optimal amount of choline before birth helps mitigate these adverse factors. The American Medical Association (AMA) recommends choline supplements along with prenatal vitamins for all pregnant women. Brain development before birth is a once-in-your baby’s-lifetime opportunity to promote your child’s future mental health! PrenatalDoctorAdvice.com is Specific Guidance from research and teaching physicians to improve your child’s mental health and brain development before birth.
A mother writes: “I want to reach out to say thank you for your life-changing research on choline. I just had my second baby and he is now 4 months old. So far, he is meeting all milestones on time and is very engaged, happy and alert. I took phosphatidylcholine daily thanks to your research. My older son is 3 and will likely be diagnosed with ADHD [Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder], like myself, as a child. I wish I had known about your research sooner, so I could have taken choline in my pregnancy with him. I truly believe it will change the course of my younger son’s life. Thank you and incredibly grateful….”
What can choline do for my baby? In your 9 months’ of pregnancy, your baby’s brain grows from a single cell to a complete brain, with all its nerve cells in place and connected. Choline helps complete nerve cell connections that your baby will use at birth to bond to you and to begin to take in the world around it. Choline also supports the placenta, which affects the timing of delivery and the baby’s 3rd trimester growth spurt. You will see more benefits as the child grows. Babies whose mothers have higher choline levels are more likely to be born on time, not early, and reach normal birthweights. By 3 months of age, babies cuddle better, relate well to others, and can focus their attention during quiet playtime. By 4 years of age, children have fewer Attention Deficit Disorder problems, fewer problems in engaging with other children, fewer sleep problems, and better performance on intelligence tests that require concentration. Better attention continues for up to 7 years after birth. Choline does not produce “super children,” but it decreases the number of children who have moderate to severe problems and increases the chances you will have a healthy, happy, normal child. We don’t know if mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism will be prevented when the child reaches adolescence and adulthood, but we know that children on this good development track are less likely to have mental illness later in life. Who should take choline supplements? The short answer—everyone. The reason—there are many risk factors to the baby’s development that choline can help mitigate. Specific pages are devoted to (1) COVID-19, Flu, Infections, (2) High-risk Black pregnancies, (3) Vegans, (4) Marijuana, (5) Alcohol and Nicotine, (6) Stress and Depression, and (7) Mentally ill family. Some of these risk factors are avoidable, but others are not predictable. COVID-19 taught everyone that no matter how many precautions you take—isolation, masks, and vaccines—infection can still occur. If you unexpectedly get an infection in pregnancy, you are prepared to protect your baby if you have been taking choline. If you wait until you get sick, part of the damage to the fetus may already have occurred. What are the risks of taking choline or phosphatidylcholine supplements? Mothers hesitate for good reason to take anything new during pregnancy. Folic acid, fluoride, and other nutrients took decades to be widely accepted. Choline and phosphatidylcholine occur naturally in food, and phosphatidylcholine and choline in capsules are isolated from soybeans and other plants. Clinical trials, supervised by the FDA, found no serious adverse side effects of phosphatidylcholine and choline supplements for either mother or baby. Side effects reported from supplements, compared to side effects from placebo in two clinical trials are listed for you to review. When should I start taking choline? You can start pre-conception. If you cannot, you should start as soon as possible and continue until your delivery. Choline levels fall at the end of your first trimester, as your baby uses large amounts to build every cell in its new body and the placenta. But high choline levels in your second trimester are critical for your baby’s optimal brain development. Choline supplements ensure that your baby gets what it needs. In the third trimester, more choline helps your baby gain its ideal birthweight. Extra choline in your third trimester cannot turn your baby’s development clock backwards, if you missed the second trimester. Brain development not fully completed in the second trimester remains incomplete for your child’s entire life, with implications for mental capabilities and well-being. After birth, your milk is rich in phosphatidylcholine and continuing your supplement would add only a little bit more. Formula is required to have an amount of choline equal to breast milk, but the phosphatidylcholine in breast milk is easier for your baby to digest. Can I get optimal choline amounts from a good diet? A good diet is often touted as better than any supplement. Babies need carbohydrates, protein, and fats to grow, and thus a good diet is important in pregnancy. However, “good diet is all you need” overlooks supplements of folic acid and thiamine in flour, iodide in salt, Vitamins A and D in milk, and fluoride in the water, because diet alone was discovered to be insufficient to prevent disease linked to low levels of these nutrients. That is also true for choline. You can rate your own diet’s choline-containing foods. Blood tests to tell you if your choline blood level is high enough for your baby’s optimal brain development are unfortunately not generally available, except for research. How do I get phosphatidylcholine or choline? What dose should I take? The dosage that we recommend is 1000 mg choline or the equivalent 7200 mg phosphatidylcholine, twice the FDA’s current minimum Adequate Daily Intake for Pregnant Women (550 mg) and less than 30% of the FDA Upper Limit (3500 mg). This dose, plus your good diet, produces optimal benefit for fetal development, while minimizing nausea and other minor side effects. The FDA 2016 recommendation considered only the dose adequate to prevent liver disease in pregnancy and explicitly ignored the emerging evidence of benefits for the baby. The product you buy may suggest a different dose on the bottle. Your doctor or midwife knows your particular circumstances best. We urge you to consult your own doctor or midwife to see what is right for you. We do not endorse any choline products, but we have included a list of examples. A decision for yourself and for your baby You may decide to wait for more information from larger clinical trials before taking choline for your pregnancy. The value of more data, especially longer-term outcomes for more pregnancies, is undeniable. However, you are here because you or someone you know is pregnant or wants to be pregnant soon. More longer-term data is years if not decades away. Mothers who are given choline in a clinical trial take 9 months to deliver their baby and it takes 4 years for the child to reach 4 years of age. The process cannot be speeded up to help you make your decision sooner. Your mother did not take choline and you came out all right, so why does your baby now need choline? She may have been drinking alcohol and smoking as well! You are correct, most pregnancies proceed well, and most babies are born just fine. But you probably also know someone who has a child with problems. About 1 in 7 families have a child with problems, and perhaps you can help prevent that outcome for your child and family by taking choline while you are pregnant. There are so many choices, and your doctor may only tell you to eat a good diet, get enough sleep, and take the prenatal vitamin of your choice. Having too many choices sometimes discourages people from making any choice. (1) Time is of the essence. Your baby has only one opportunity to build its brain for life, and construction is proceeding every day; choline is safe and can help build that brain. (2) Start choline and all your prenatal vitamins preconception or as soon as you can if you are already pregnant. It matters less which one you take as much as your starting as soon as possible. What others say: NPR (National Public Radio). Can Mental Illness Be Prevented In The Womb? Baby Gaga (by Lady Gaga and her Mother). Extra Choline Can Help Moms-To-Be Decrease Negative Effects Of COVID-19 On Newborns. Beyond the Prenatal: A Pharmacist’s Guide for Taking Choline During Pregnancy Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. Higher Maternal Choline Levels in Pregnancy Had Protective Role in Infant Brain Development To see more, please click on Menu in the upper right corner. Hear more from another mother. Escucha más de otra madre en Español.