Of 183 mothers enrolled from an urban safety net hospital clinic, 162 complied with gestational assessments and brought their newborns for study at 1 month of age; 83 continued assessments through 4 years of age. Effects of maternal 16 weeks of gestation plasma choline concentrations ⩾7.07 μM, 1 s.d. below the mean level obtained with supplementation in the previous trial, were compared to lower levels. The Attention Problems and Withdrawn Syndrome scales on Child Behavior Checklist 1½-5 were the principal outcomes.
Higher maternal plasma choline was associated with lower mean Attention Problems percentiles in children, and for male children, with lower Withdrawn percentiles. Higher plasma choline concentrations also reduced Attention Problems percentiles for children of mothers who used cannabis during gestation as well as children of mothers who had gestational infection.
Prenatal choline’s positive associations with early childhood behaviors are found in a second, more diverse cohort. Increases in attention problems and social withdrawal in early childhood are associated with later mental illnesses including attention deficit disorder and schizophrenia. Choline concentrations in the pregnant women in this study replicate other research findings suggesting that most pregnant women do not have adequate choline in their diets.