Micronutrients in Pregnancy in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
Pregnancy is one of the more important periods in life when increased micronutrients, and macronutrients are most needed by the body; both for the health and well-being of the mother and for the growing foetus and newborn child. This brief review aims to identify the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) likely to be deficient in women of reproductive age in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC), especially during pregnancy, and the impact of such deficiencies. A global prevalence of some two billion people at risk of micronutrient deficiencies, and multiple micronutrient deficiencies of many pregnant women in LMIC underline the urgency to establishing the optimal recommendations, including for delivery. It has long been recognized that adequate iron is important for best reproductive outcomes, including gestational cognitive development. Similarly, iodine and calcium have been recognized for their roles in development of the foetus/neonate. Less clear effects of deficiencies of zinc, copper, magnesium and selenium have been reported. Folate sufficiency periconceptionally is recognized both by the practice of providing folic acid in antenatal iron/folic acid supplementation and by increasing numbers of countries fortifying flours with folic acid. Other vitamins likely to be important include vitamins B12, D and A with the water-soluble vitamins generally less likely to be a problem. Epigenetic influences and the likely influence of micronutrient deficiencies on foetal origins of adult chronic diseases are currently being clarified. Micronutrients may have other more subtle, unrecognized effects. The necessity for improved diets and health and sanitation are consistently recommended, although these are not always available to many of the world’s pregnant women. Consequently, supplementation programmes, fortification of staples and condiments, and nutrition and health support need to be scaled-up, supported by social and cultural measures. Because of the life-long influences on reproductive outcomes, including inter-generational ones, both clinical and public health measures need to ensure adequate micronutrient intakes during pregnancy, but also during adolescence, the first few years of life, and during lactation. Many antenatal programmes are not currently achieving this. We aim to address the need for micronutrients during pregnancy, the importance of micronutrient deficiencies during gestation and before, and propose the scaling-up of clinical and public health approaches that achieve healthier pregnancies and improved pregnancy outcomes.
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