Short interpregnancy intervals and risks for birth defects: support for the nutritional depletion hypothesis.

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Date Published

2021 Mar 01

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<p><b>BACKGROUND: </b>Research suggests short interpregnancy intervals increase risks for adverse perinatal outcomes, including some birth defects. A hypothesized cause is nutritional depletion, including folic acid (FA).</p><p><b>OBJECTIVES: </b>We evaluated associations between short interpregnancy intervals, alone and in combination with FA intake, and the occurrence of select malformations.</p><p><b>METHODS: </b>Data were from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (US case-control, 1997-2011). Participants included multiparous women whose prior pregnancy resulted in live birth. Cases included 8 noncardiac and 6 cardiac defect groups (n = 3219); controls were nonmalformed live-borns (n = 2508). We categorized interpregnancy interval (<6, 6-11, 12-17, and 18-23 mo) and periconceptional FA intake [no FA supplement use and dietary folate equivalents (DFE) <400 µg/d, no FA supplement use and DFE ≥400 µg/d, or any FA supplement use]. We controlled for age, race/ethnicity, income, pregnancy intention, and study center. ORs <0.8 or >1.2 were considered to represent potentially meaningful associations.</p><p><b>RESULTS: </b>ORs for <6 compared with 18-23 mo were >1.2 for 4/8 noncardiac and 3/6 cardiac malformations. Among participants with any FA supplement use, ORs comparing <6 with 6-23 mo were <1.2 for most defects. Conversely, most ORs were >1.2 for <6 mo + no FA supplement use and DFE <400 µg/d compared with 6-23 mo + any FA supplement use. Magnitude and precision varied by defect.</p><p><b>CONCLUSIONS: </b>Short interpregnancy intervals were associated with a trend of higher risks for several defects, notably in the absence of FA supplement use. To our knowledge, our study is the first to provide preliminary empirical support that these etiologies may be related to shorter interpregnancy intervals and possible nutritional deficiencies. Because FA intake is highly correlated with other nutrients, and because our estimates were generally imprecise, more research with larger sample sizes is needed to better understand the role of FA compared with other nutrients in each defect-specific etiology.</p>



Alternate Title

Am J Clin Nutr




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