Research results just published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research reveals that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) expect fetal development to be affected in babies born to mothers who contracted COVID-19 during their pregnancy. This belief comes from the knowledge that other common respiratory coronaviruses have been shown to have an impact on the development of affected women’s offspring. However, taking a choline supplement while pregnant may help minimize or prevent such an impact.
Past research has shown that when pregnant women develop viral infections such as colds and influenza their children have higher rates of being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), bipolar disorder, and have differences in cognitive test scores. In 2019 researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus published a paper where they stated, “Colds and flu during pregnancy double the risk of future mental illnesses.”
Coronavirus is a broad category of viruses that cause the common cold as well as COVID-19. The recently published study looked at choline levels of 43 pregnant women who had contracted common respiratory viruses during the first 6–16 weeks of their pregnancy. They compared them to the choline level of 53 mothers who were healthy. The study participants were from the University of Colorado and Denver Health Medical Center’s Prenatal Clinic.
“We found that higher levels of choline prevent fetal brain problems from developing, even when the mother is infected. Choline supplements in pregnancy can have a lifelong benefit for the infant,” Science Daily quotes Robert Freedman, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
“Most pregnant women in the US are not achieving choline intake recommendations of 450 mg/day and would likely benefit from boosting their choline intakes through dietary and/or supplemental approaches,” stated the authors of a different study published in the Journal of Nutrients.
What Is Choline?
Choline is an essential nutrient. It was recognized by the Institute of Medicine in 1998 as a nutrient required by our bodies. We do produce some choline, but additional amounts of it must also be obtained through diet or supplements. Current recommendations from the Institute of Medicine for adequate intake by pregnant women is 450 mg each day. Foods that are high in choline include beef and chicken liver, eggs, salmon, broccoli and cauliflower.
“While the study from the University of Colorado is promising, caution should be used in stating that choline protects against coronavirus,” Jan Watson, MD, board-certified OBGYN, tells Parentology. “Choline may be added to prenatal vitamins because of its potential to improve fetal neurodevelopment.”
The study from the University of Colorado was small, only 43 women reported having a respiratory viral illness at 16 weeks gestation. So, does Watson think pregnant women should take a choline supplement? “Would I recommend choline at this time? No. If a patient asked specifically if there was something she could do to protect her fetus, I would inform her that choline has been reported to be possibly effective.”
Pregnant women are advised to discuss with their health care provider any supplements or change in supplements they are currently taking.
Choline Supplement While Pregnant — Sources
The Journal of Psychiatric Research – Maternal choline and respiratory coronavirus effects on fetal brain development
Science Daily – Expectant mothers can prevent fetal brain problems caused by the flu, study shows
Nutrients – Choline: Exploring the Growing Science on Its Benefits for Moms and Babies
Healthline – What is Choline?
Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey – Infections and Brain Development