Most women have heard that folic acid is an essential nutrient before and during pregnancy to help prevent birth defects. But science tells us that another B-vitamin, B-6 or pyridoxine, is also important during and after pregnancy to ease the symptoms of morning sickness and supplement breast milk. Vitamin B-6 is required for protein and fat metabolism. It also helps form red blood cells and serotonin.
Since most cases of morning sickness go untreated out of concern for the fetus, researchers at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics conducted a study to see what natural treatments might work to ease the typical symptoms. They tested the effects of vitamin B-6 in a group of pregnant women and found that it was helpful in reducing the nausea and vomiting that occur with morning sickness.
Vitamin B-6 is also needed for healthy breast milk. Nutrition researchers at Texas Tech University wanted to determine if B-6 was transferred into breast milk from the mother and what, if any, effects it may have on the infant. Milk samples were taken from new mothers eight to 11 days after giving birth. The breast milk was measured for its vitamin B-6 content and the corresponding infant underwent non-invasive neurobehavioural tests.
The results showed that the nutrient was transferred to the breast milk, which positively affected the health of the infant. The researchers concluded that “vitamin B-6 is important for normal behavioural functioning of infants” and that pregnant and lactating women should ensure adequate B-6 levels.
Sources: Am J Obstet Gynecol 2002 May; 185(5 Suppl Understanding):S253-5; J Am Diet Assoc 2002 Oct;102(10):1433-8