Women, during pregnancy and lactation, should eat foods that contain adequate amounts of choline. A mother delivers large amounts of choline across the placenta to the fetus, and after birth she delivers large amounts of choline in milk to the infant; this greatly increases the demand on the choline stores of the mother. Adequate intake of dietary choline may be important for optimal fetal outcome (birth defects, brain development) and for maternal liver and placental function. Diets in many low income countries and in approximately one-fourth of women in high income countries, like the United States, may be too low in choline content. Prenatal vitamin supplements do not contain an adequate source of choline. For women who do not eat foods containing milk, meat, eggs, or other choline-rich foods, a diet supplement should be considered.
Keywords: birth defects; brain development; choline; liver function; placenta; pregnancy.