Why It Matters
Micronutrient deficiencies can have devastating consequences, even for unborn children. Micronutrients, also called vitamins and minerals, are key to helping infants and children grow, learn, and thrive. Facts about six essential nutrients are outlined here.
Iron helps develop the brain of a fetus and child. Iron deficiency is a leading cause of anemia. Severe anemia during pregnancy can result in poor fetal growth, preterm birth, or low birth weight. Anemia during pregnancy also increases the risk of death for both the mother and baby. In addition, iron deficiency limits physical productivity and work capacity. See more.
Folate is a general term for many different forms of vitamin B9, which is essential in the earliest days of fetal growth. Folic acid, the form of folate found in supplements and fortified foods, is the only form shown to prevent serious birth defects of the brain, spinal cord, and skull. These birth defects are often preventable if women get enough folic acid before and during early pregnancy. See more.
Vitamin A supports healthy eyesight and immune system functions. Children who are deficient face an increased risk of blindness and death from infections such as measles and diarrhea. See more.
Iodine is also required during pregnancy and early infancy for brain and cognitive development. Iodine deficiency can lead to developmental delays and is the most common cause of preventable mental retardation. See more.
Zinc promotes immunity, resistance to infection, and proper growth and development of the nervous system. This mineral is also important for healthy pregnancies. See more.
Vitamin D is essential for bone health as well as muscle and nerve functions. Vitamin D also helps the immune system fight off bacteria and viruses. See more.