Here at Prenatal Vitamin HQ, we’ve talked extensively about folic acid and what can happen when you don’t get enough of it, at least from the baby’s perspective. But vitamin deficiencies don’t just affect the baby; they can have an impact on mom’s health, too. One such example is megaloblastic anemia, a disease affecting blood cells caused by vitamin deficiencies.

It should come as no surprise that the mother’s health directly impacts her developing baby. So what is megaloblastic anemia and how can you prevent it? Let’s have a look.

Megaloblastic Anemia and Its Causes

Megaloblastic anemia can be diagnosed from a peripheral blood smear.

Megaloblastic anemia can be diagnosed from a peripheral blood smear.

Both folic acid and Vitamin B12 are important in DNA synthesis. Specifically, they are required for the production of pyrimidine nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA. An inability to properly synthesize and replicate DNA particularly affects cells that are rapidly dividing.

One group of cells that are frequently dividing are your blood cells. Inside the marrow of your bones, progenitor cells grow and divide, forming new red and white blood cells. This is important because blood cells have limited life spans. Your body needs to constantly replace them in order to adequately carry oxygen and protect you from infections.

When there is a folic acid or Vitamin B12 deficiency, your body can no longer properly produce red and white blood cells. This is called megaloblastic anemia. Some symptoms of megaloblastic anemia include numbness, weakness, loss of appetite, abnormal paleness, and irritability.

Causes of Megaloblastic Anemia

Essentially, anything that can cause a deficiency of folic acid (folate) or Vitamin B12 can cause megaloblastic anemia. Some common causes include:

  • Alcoholism
  • Certain anticancer drugs
  • Malabsorption
  • Pregnancy

You probably noticed the last item on the list: pregnancy itself can be a cause of megaloblastic anemia due to an increased demand for folic acid. This shows just how important it is to get enough folic acid either through your diet or from a prenatal vitamin.

Sources of Folic Acid and Vitamin B12

Taking a quality prenatal vitamin is a great start to meeting your vitamin needs. Also be sure to check out our recent article on foods high in folic acid for more.


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