Background: Low red blood cell folate concentrations during early pregnancy might cause neural tube defects. However, the association between folate concentrations and birth defects of other neural crest cell-derived organs remains unknown. We investigated the associations between birth defects and first-trimester serum folate concentrations in a birth-cohort study in Japan.
Methods: In total, 14,896 women who were prior to 13 weeks of gestation were enrolled from 2003 through 2012. Birth defect information was obtained from medical records and questionnaires. The association between folate levels in the first trimester and birth defects categorized as ICD-10 cord defects and neural crest cell-derived organ defects was examined. The crude and adjusted odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) per log-transformed folate concentration were calculated using logistic regression.
Results: Blood samples were obtained at a mean of 10.8 weeks of gestation. Median serum folate level was 16.5 (interquartile range, 13.4–21.5) nmol/L, and the deficiency level (less than 6.8 nmol/L) was 0.7%. There were 358 infants with birth defects. The adjusted odds ratio for any birth defect, ventricular septal defects, and cleft lip was 0.99 (95% CI, 0.74–1.32), 0.63 (95% CI, 0.30–1.33), and 4.10 (95% CI, 0.96–17.58), respectively. There were no significant associations between first-trimester maternal serum folate and the risk of birth defects.
Conclusions: We were unable to demonstrate a relationship between maternal serum folate in the first trimester and birth defects. Potential confounding factors may have influenced our results.