For pregnant women, choline is a critical nutrient for fetal development and proper child development.
However, most pregnant women do not consume adequate amounts of choline. Many multi-vitamins supplements, including prenatal vitamins, do not contain choline, so if you are pregnant, check to make sure yours do.
The Nurses' Health Study, reported in 2010, found that 95 percent of pregnant women consumed less that 411 mg of choline per day, below the recommended 450 mg. In fact, the average consumption was 337 mg per day.
Studies have repeatedly shown the benefits of choline, including its importance in developing the brain's memory center as well as preventing neural tube defects in the infant during pregnancy. Pregnant women whose choline consumption levels are at the lower end of the 300 to 550 mg range face a deficiency that increases the risk of neural tube birth defects affecting the brain, spine and spinal canal. Preventing neural tube defects is crucial, because they cannot be cured. They can, however, be prevented through means that include sufficient intake of choline and folate.
Women of reproductive age should routinely consume enough choline, since neural tube defects occur within the first weeks of pregnancy, before many women realize they are pregnant.