Vitamins, Proteins
In this photo, various 'Plumpy Nut' food packs at the Societe de Transformation Alimentaire (STA, or Food Transformation Company) are seen, which contains vitamins, proteins, and all necessary nutrients to fight malnutrition and deficiency, in the industrial area of Niamey, Niger, West Africa, June 14, 2016. Getty Images

Vitamin B12 is an essential element among the other micronutrients that help in effective development, repair and growth of your body. This vitamin helps in DNA synthesis and red blood cells regulation and is also responsible for the proper functioning of major body processes. It is a water soluble vitamin, however, your body does not make it, so you have to consume animal-based food or supplements for the proper intake.

According to Newsmax, vegetarians, pregnant women, heavy drinkers, and smokers require vitamin B12 supplements and are more prone to its deficiency. One of the major deficiency symptoms includes fatigue. Deficiency can lead to weight loss, constipation, weakness, and illnesses like anemia, asthma, and several vision-related problems.

Read: Excessive Vitamin B12 May Result In Acne Breakouts: Study

Vitamin B12 has its own health benefits and is also important before and during pregnancy to ensure proper development of the child, according to several studies.

Vitamin B12 is important for keeping your nails, hair, and skin healthy. It also supports your energy levels and is essential for your nervous system, heart, and mental health. According to Global Healing Center, this vitamin boosts the production of melatonin which can have an effect on your mood quality and sleep. It also supports your thyroid health and your immune system. This vitamin also regulates your nervous system for it to function properly and thus results in reduced stress and depression levels.

Vitamin B12 is extremely necessary before and after conception as studies have found women who do not consume proper amount have a higher risk of giving birth to a baby with a potential disability or a fatal birth defect.

Read: How To Prevent The Flu And Common Cold: Are Vitamin D Supplements The Key?

A 2009 study on the risks of vitamin B12 deficiency conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health, Trinity College, Dublin, and Health Research Board of Ireland, found that women who do not get enough vitamin B12 during early pregnancy are five times more likely to face the risk of having a child with a neural tube defect, a class of birth defect, as compared to those women who have a higher intake and level of the vitamin in their bodies.

Neural tube defects affect the brain and spinal cord and one type of it is called "spina bifida," which can also cause partial paralysis, according to the study.

"Vitamin B12 is essential for the functioning of the nervous system and for the production of red blood cells," Duane Alexander, MD, director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which funded the study said.

"The results of this study suggest that women with low levels of B12 not only may risk health problems of their own but also may increase the chance that their children may be born with a serious birth defect," Alexander added.

Another study published in Pediatrics​ in June 2008, considered the vitamin B12 levels in blood samples of pregnant women from three groups of Irish women between 1983 to 1990 who were either pregnant with a child or had a child earlier with a neural tube defect and compared it to women who had healthy pregnancies, in their analysis.

"In terms of maternal health, clinical vitamin B12 deficiency may be a cause of infertility or recurrent spontaneous abortion. Starting pregnancy with an inadequate vitamin B12 status may increase the risk of birth defects such as NTD, and may contribute to preterm delivery, although this needs further evaluation," the study stated.