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Zinc in pregnancy

Zinc in pregnancy Body building

SUMMARY

The rapid growth of tissue and DNA that’s taking place in your baby’s body relies on a good supply of zinc during pregnancy. Learn how this important mineral supports your own health too, and which foods to eat for an adequate supply.

A building block of life

Zinc, a mineral present in many foods, plays an essential role in the construction of your baby’s cells and DNA during pregnancy.

It is needed for cell division and tissue growth, supporting normal development as your baby grows. As pregnancy is a time when your baby is growing from a single cell into a little person comprised of trillions of cells, a healthy intake of zinc as part of a well-balanced diet is crucial.

Zinc is also well-known for its benefits to the immune system, helping to protect against infections and heal wounds1, and aids in the metabolising of other vital nutrients.

A good start for a healthy brain

An adequate supply of zinc during pregnancy has various benefits for your baby, besides normal growth.

Found in high concentrations in the brain, it is important for normal brain function, which contributes to all future learning and development2.

It also helps to build a robust immune system by helping to maintain a healthy amount of antibodies1.

"Zinc, a mineral present in many foods like avocado, plays an essential role in the construction of your baby’s cells and DNA"

Protecting your own health during pregnancy

During pregnancy, your immune system is naturally suppressed, leaving you more vulnerable to infection3. Zinc is one of the nutrients that provide some extra immune support1, making it important for your own health, as well as your baby’s.

Maintaining a healthy intake of zinc throughout your pregnancy has also been shown to lower the risk of premature birth4.

How much zinc is enough in pregnancy?

Despite having such an important role in your baby’s development, the RNI of zinc is 7mg per day, the same as it would be if you weren’t pregnant. However, your need rises significantly while breastfeeding, increasing to 13mg per day until your baby is 4 months old, and falling to 9.5mg per day beyond that. Present in many foods, these amounts should be easy to get from a well-balanced diet5.

Incredibly, a single oyster contains more than your entire daily zinc requirement. However, raw oysters are one of the foods you should avoid during pregnancy because of the risk of food poisoning.

Instead, try eating the following foods to ensure a good intake5,6:

  • Well-cooked oysters and shellfish
  • Red meat such as beef as well as poultry, especially turkey
  • Oatmeal
  • Nuts, beans and soya
  • Dairy products and eggs

Wholegrain bread, fortified cereals and corn also provide zinc, but the phytates they contain can inhibit the absorption of zinc from other foods. To maximise your intake from other sources, avoid eating these foods at the same time.

Zinc in pregnancy

Zinc, a mineral present in many foods, plays an essential role in the construction of your baby’s cells and DNA during pregnancy.

Next Steps

Try these zinc-rich light meals and snacks to boost your intake:

  • Porridge with a handful of walnuts
  • A hard-boiled egg
  • Turkey salad with sliced almonds
  • Cottage cheese on oatcakes

View references

Hide references

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1. Wellinghausen N. Immunobiology of gestational zinc deficiency. Br J Nutr 2001;85(Suppl 2):S81-86.

2. British Nutrition Foundation. Nutrition and development, short and long-term consequences for health. London: Wiley Blackwell, 2013. p.157.

3. NHS UK. Why are pregnant women at higher risk of flu complications? [Online]. 2013. Available at: www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/3096.aspx?CategoryID=5 [Accessed June 2014]

4. WHO. Zinc supplementation during pregnancy [Online]. 2013. Available at: www.who.int/elena/bbc/zinc_pregnancy/en/ [Accessed June 2014

5. NHS UK. Vitamins and minerals – others [Online]. 2012. Available at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-minerals/pages/other-vitamins-minerals.aspx#zinc [Accessed June 2014]

6. NHS UK. Vitamins and minerals – others [Online]. 2012. Available at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-minerals/pages/other-vitamins-minerals.aspx#zinc [Accessed June 2014]

Last reviewed: 18th August 2014
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