Through a study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Parul Christian from Johns Hopkins University Bloomburg School of Public Heath found that, when mothers were given iron and B9 vitamin (folic acid) supplements during pregnancy, children were smarter, more organized and had better fine motor skills.
"Iron is essential for the development of the central nervous system," said Christian, whose study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
According to the World Health Organization, iron deficiency is the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world, affecting two billion people. Early iron deficiency can interfere with nerve development and metabolism, hampering both intellectual and fine motor development.
J. Brant Buchinger, MD, Obstetrics and Gynecology at Women’s Health Center of Edmond, agrees with these findings. "Everyone needs [folic acid], which can be found naturally in certain foods, added to or ‘enriched’ in other food and in many vitamins," says Buchinger. He advocates folic acid as an affordable supplement that is easy to take and helps to prevent major birth defects in a developing baby. The average recommended amount of folic acid is 400-800 micrograms per day, but that amount is general, and individuals may have specific needs for more. "You should speak with your doctor about the right dose for your situation," advises Buchinger. He also recommends that women "ensure your diet has adequate levels of folic acid well before pregnancy."