The role of Zinc in pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time when you want to get the most out of your diet to pass nutrients onto your growing baby. Zinc is a fundamental mineral and is necessary for many functions including protein synthesis, cellular division and nucleic acid metabolism, making it essential in pregnancy.1

While severe Zinc deficiency is uncommon, it has been estimated that up to 80% of pregnant women worldwide do not consume enough zinc on a daily basis. It's believed the average daily intake is 9.6 mg zinc per day, well below the daily levels recommended in adults.3

Maternal Zinc deficiency can compromise infant development and lead to poor birth outcomes for numerous reasons, although studies in pregnancy have returned inconsistent results. Low plasma Zinc levels can decrease placental Zinc transport and may decrease zinc levels in the fetus.1 Zinc deficiency can impact levels of many hormones required for the onset of labour. Zinc is also a vital component for immune regulation, so low Zinc status may negatively effect systemic and intra-uterine infections, two main causes of pre-term birth.1,2

Research into the impact of Zinc supplementation during pregnancy has often shown varying results with inconsistencies, possibly due to the challenges in determining baseline Zinc status in population group and methodology. Recent research into maternal Zinc deficiency in a large population-based birth cohort study details the higher risk of low birth weight and small for gestational age (SGA) infants as a result of low zinc status.4 Decreased birthweight and SGA are significant risk factors for neonatal and infant morbidity and mortality.

References available upon request