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Keywords:

  • Cohort study;
  • early pregnancy;
  • folate;
  • homocysteine;
  • placental parameters;
  • pregnancy complications

Please cite this paper as: Bergen N, Jaddoe V, Timmermans S, Hofman A, Lindemans J, Russcher H, Raat H, Steegers-Theunissen R, Steegers E. Homocysteine and folate concentrations in early pregnancy and the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes: the Generation R Study. BJOG 2012;119:739–751.

Objective  To investigate associations between early pregnancy homocysteine, folate and vitamin B12 concentrations and placental weight, birthweight and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Design  Population-based birth cohort study.

Setting  Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Population  Cohort of 5805 pregnant women.

Methods  To analyse homocysteine, folate and vitamin B12 concentrations, blood was drawn in early pregnancy. These concentrations were divided into quintiles. Information on birth outcomes was retrieved from medical records. Multivariate regression analyses were used.

Main outcome measures  Placental weight, birthweight, small for gestational age at birth (SGA) (<5th centile), prematurity and pre-eclampsia.

Results  High homocysteine concentrations (highest quintile) were associated with lower placental weight (difference 30 g; P < 0.001) and birthweight (difference 110 g; P < 0.001), and increased risk of SGA [odds ratio (OR) 1.7; P = 0.006] compared with lowest quintile (reference). Low folate concentrations (lowest quintile) were associated with lower placental weight (difference 26 g; P = 0.001) and birthweight (difference 125 g; P < 0.001), and increased risks of SGA (OR 1.9; P = 0.002), prematurity (OR 2.2; P = 0.002) and pre-eclampsia (OR 2.1; P = 0.04) compared with highest quintile (reference). The risk of developing SGA and pre-eclampsia was substantially higher in women who had higher homocysteine and lower folate concentrations. No associations were found with vitamin B12.

Conclusions  Higher homocysteine and lower folate concentrations in early pregnancy are associated with lower placental weight and birthweight, and higher risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. These findings suggest that high homocysteine and low folate concentrations in early pregnancy may adversely influence placentation and subsequently affect the success of pregnancy and birth outcomes.