Prenatal micronutrients in pregnant women’s diets, including supplements, have an essential role in fetal brain development and may reduce the risk of mental disorders in offspring. Folic acid, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and choline have been investigated for this purpose. Folic acid supplementation throughout pregnancy has well-established positive effects. Vitamin D, administered to the mother before birth or to the newborn, has also been shown to reduce the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders. Omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy have a more uncertain role, with recent trials questioning a beneficial effect on cognition and attention deficit disorder, despite positive effects on prematurity and neonatal wheezing prevention. Choline supplementation is associated with positive effects on cognition and behavior, including early behaviors associated with the development of autism and schizophrenia. There is no experience yet with COVID-19, but adverse effects on fetal brain development of most common coronaviruses are mitigated by higher choline levels. Maternal dietary supplementation of nutrients is a benign and inexpensive intervention in pregnancy to prevent life-long disability from mental illness. Use of dietary supplements in poorer, rural areas of China is below recommendations. Physicians, midwives, and public health officials in China can promote prenatal nutrient supplementation to reduce the future burden of mental illnesses that might be prevented before birth.
© 2020 Chinese Medical Association. Pediatric Investigation published by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd on behalf of Futang Research Center of Pediatric Development.