Although the problem can arise for anyone B12 deficiency is extremely prevalent in 2 specific groups – individuals aged over 65 who often have a compromised digestive process for the B12 and those who do not consume meat/animal products. The choice to become a vegetarian or a vegan is more often than not a noble decision, with the intent to avoid causing harm. Of course at that point a very delicate balance must then be maintained in terms of nutrition. This becomes a more prominent issue for women who are either pregnant or have recently given birth and are breastfeeding.
Pregnancy takes a fairly heavy toll on the body of the woman. Although most advice about supplementation during pregnancy concerns calcium intake, all vitamins and minerals ingested become shared property, which is why it is so very important to eat plenty of foods with high nutritional value. However, with the chemical changes the body experiences, and with the needs of the baby, most women experience a slight B12 deficiency. In cases of vegetarians this can become a serious issue.
In vitro the baby uses the stores of vitamins and nutrients that the mother has, so much so that when he or she is born the vitamin levels in their blood are higher than the mother’s. In case of B12 and veganism this can cause a severe deficiency for the mother despite supplementation, as the vitamin is not as readily absorbed from sources other than animal products. But what’s worse is the effect a B12 deficiency would have on the developing fetus and the young baby.
Research reports that it a B12 deficiency in a developing fetus can cause severe birth defects (including neural tube defects which are usually associated with folic acid deficiency). Another complication arises when the B12 deficiency is missed, as most women take folic acid during pregnancy which tends to mask some of the signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Some research shows that a B12 deficiency can increase the chances of infertility for a woman, and can be causal of miscarriages and preterm births. However most pre-natal vitamins do provide some B12 and your doctor should instruct you further if you feel like you are lacking B12. The issue also can arise during breastfeeding.
At this point some women may stop supplementing the B12 and this will have absolutely detrimental effects on the developing of the baby. A report confirmed a case of 2 women who did not take in animal products in their diet when breast feeding and were not supplementing the vitamin properly. Due to the absence of the B12 in the breast milk the children reportedly developed brain and growth abnormalities. Fortunately once this problem was noted and supplemented the children were able to develop normally.
It is of utmost importance however to point out that breastfeeding your child is extremely important and beneficial as well. Children who are breastfed show a stronger immune system, a higher IQ and a better understanding of social relationships than children the same age who were bottle fed. The mother however must remember that she is truly doing the work for 2 human beings, so supplementation should be well balanced and constant. you are a practicing vegetarian or vegan research seems to indicate that food and oral supplementation alone will not be able to give you sufficient levels of the vitamin in your system