PREGNANT women should take vitamin B12 supplements and folic acid to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in the foetus, a new study from Trinity College, Dublin, suggests in the Quarterly Journal of Medicine. Researchers found that women with low levels of vitamin B12 in the blood ran five times the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect, such as spina bifida, as those with high levels of the vitamin.

Pregnant women, or those planning pregnancy, are already advised to take a 0.4mg supplement of folic acid daily, although a recent study revealed that fewer than 3 per cent of pregnant women do so.