Daily vitamin B3 supplements may help to significantly reduce the risk of miscarriage and birth defects when taken by women during pregnancy, according to a new study on mice. If the same results are replicated in humans in future experiments, the vitamin could be an easy way to prevent these problems for some women.

The findings are from an Australian study which identified the molecule NAD as a major component in fetal development. While NAD is naturally formed in the body through a healthy diet, it can also be obtained through B3 supplements, ABC News reported. This is the first time that a lack of the molecule has been associated with pregnancy problems.

Read: Early Pregnancy Loss In First Trimester Linked To Genetic Mutation

"We have discovered a whole new cause of birth defects and a way to treat it as well," lead researcher Sally Dunwoodie told ABC News. "Arguably, it's the most important discovery for pregnant women since folate. The promise is that this could significantly reduce the number of miscarriages and babies born with defects."

Animal Study

For the landmark study, researchers from Victor Chang Institute in Sydney studied reasons for why some women had multiple miscarriages and/or had given birth to children with significant birth defects. In doing so, they identified NAD as a vital molecule for organ development and hypothesized that deficits of this molecule may lead to some of the aforementioned pregnancy and birth problems. To test this, the team purposely knocked out the gene that made NAD in pregnant mice who were also given a regular dose of vitamin B3.

“We found it prevented miscarriages and birth defects, over-riding the genetic block,” said Dunwoodie.

What This Means For Us

The study was only conducted on pregnant mice, and though researchers are hopeful they can study the same in humans, at the moment, it’s not clear. For example, according to Medicine Net, most birth defects are caused by genetic problems, chromosomal problems or environmental factors, so it's likely that a vitamin supplement may have no effect on these.

In addition, even if this were to become a treatment available to pregnant women, it likely wouldn't be given to every single woman as a precaution. Most women are able to create adequate amounts of NAD through the foods they have in their diet, such as eggs, cheese, fish, and nuts, ABC News reported.

Rather, Dunwoodie suggests that it may be given to women who have problems naturally absorbing the nutrient, whether this be due to high body-mass index, or because of health issues such as inflammatory bowel disease or diabetes. Instead, doctors may measure a woman’s NAD amount beforehand to see if her levels are low to begin with before recommending it. 

Source: Shi H, Enriquez A, Rapadas M, et al. NAD Deficiency, Congenital Malformations, and Niacin Supplementation. The New England Journal of Medicine . 2017

See Also:

After A Miscarriage: 3 Ways To Help Healing

First Trimester Miscarriage: How Common Is It And What's The Cause?