The first 1,000 days following conception are the most important period affecting a child’s development. Of those, the first 180 days are most critical.
During this time, pregnant women need essential micronutrients, including folic acid for neural tube development, iron for oxygen transport and red blood cell formation, calcium, and vitamin A and vitamin D to control maternal blood pressure, ensure healthy bone development for the baby, prevent pre-eclampsia and low birthweight, and promote eyesight and strong immune system function.
Unfortunately, too many women in low-and-middle-income countries (LMIC) lack access to these basic micronutrients and are at risk of dying during childbirth and delivering low-birthweight babies who are, in turn, at risk for having poor health and dying before the age of five. This is Stage One of the significant “missed opportunity” of which Bill Gates spoke.
Currently, the World Health Organization only recommends iron and folic acid supplementation in LMIC, while national guidelines in the U.S., Canada and Europe recommend that all pregnant and lactating women take the full suite of supplements containing 15 essential micronutrients.
Research has shown that prenatal vitamins are found to be particularly effective in preventing adverse outcomes in anemic women – a finding which is particularly important for women in countries like India and Bangladesh where more than half are anemic, and birth complications are common – and where access to prenatal vitamins is virtually non-existent.
ESSENTIAL MICRONUTRIENTS ARE STANDARD IN wealthy NATIONS, BUT NOT IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES.
Although prenatal vitamins containing at least 15 essential micronutrients are the standard for pregnant women in the U.S., Canada and Europe, most pregnant women in LMIC only have access to two supplements – iron and folic acid.
PERCENT REDUCTION IN DEATH OF BABIES BEFORE SIX MONTHS IS POSSIBLE WITH MULTIPLE MICRONUTRIENTS OVER IRON AND FOLIC ACID.
Multiple micronutrient prenatal vitamins have been found to be particularly beneficial to anemic women, and to reduce the risk of babies dying before six months of age 29%, having low birthweight babies by 19%, and delivering early by 16%.
PERCENT OF ASIAN/AFRICAN WOMEN ARE ANEMIC AND AT RISK FOR POOR BIRTH OUTCOMES.
66% of women in Asia and Africa are anemic, with over one billion women of childbearing age at risk of poor outcomes due to low iron. Ensuring that these women in developing countries have access to the same prenatal vitamins as mothers in LMIC could prevent millions of cases of anemia per year and save hundreds of thousands of newborn lives.