spinaMAINFOUR years of work has brought fresh hope of preventing babies being born with a serious birth defect.

The new research suggests that women taking both folic acid and vitamin B8 before and during pregnancy may be able to avoid so-called neural tube defects like spina bifida and anencephaly.

A four-year study focused on a small number of women in the UK who had previously had a pregnancy affected by a condition such as spina bifida. The results were striking.

Among the women who took folic acid alone, some went on to have babies affected by spina bifida or a similar condition.

But from the larger group who took both folic and inositol, no babies were born with a neural tube defect.

The majority of parents who are told that their pregnancy is affected by spina bifida elect to have a termination – a traumatic and often psychologically damaging experience where they have to give birth to the well-developed foetus.

The UCL Institute of Child Health, the research partner of Great Ormond Street Hospital, carried out the research and believes it may bring hope for future prevention, but warns that more research is needed.

“This is very promising for the future. We all hope that a large study can be undertaken, to better inform families that wish to try to reduce the chance of their baby having an NTD.”