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Nutrition. How important is the role of zinc during pregnancy and birth?

Nutrition & Health

During pregnancy your body goes through numerous physical and hormonal changes and proper nutrition is crucial to help promote baby’s growth and development. The trace element zinc is the most abundant in the body. Unlike fat soluble vitamins, zinc is not stored in the body for a long period of time so we need a constant supply of it in our diet. 

It is the building block for every cell in the body and plays a vital role in:

  • cell division
  • creation and repair of DNA
  • tissue growth
  • regulation of gene expression
  • immunity
  • wound healing

Zinc has an important function in reproduction, immunity for mother and baby, labour and immediately following birth, postnatal depression and breastfeeding. 

Even prior to pregnancy zinc is essential in male reproductive health, in the production of healthy sperm, and in females, to help with hormone regulation and egg production ScienceDaily.

Zinc is a vital component for immune regulation. As infections can be a major factor in preterm births. Sufficient amount of zinc showed decreased susceptibility to infectious diseases during the first six months of infancy, contributing to a positive immune response in early life. 

As pregnancy progresses hormones start to change to prepare for labour and birth. Zinc is linked to a lowered, risk of preterm delivery and prolonged labour. During labour, zinc is one of the components required for the production of collagen and thus connective tissue and elasticity of tissue.  It keeps the membranes more elastic and resilient to prevent early rupture, it enhances the elasticity of the perineum and also assists in healing tissue after birth. Effect of Zinc Supplementation on Pregnancy and Infant Outcomes: A Systematic Review

Recommended Zinc Dosage

Food is the best way to obtain zinc during pregnancy. The Australian National Health and medical research Council state the minimum recommended daily intake (RDI) is 11mg per day 

Food Sources of Zinc

Red Lean meat, shellfish, poultry, whole grains, nuts, pumpkin seeds, egg yolks, oysters, spinach, raw cocoa, pork, chicken, chickpeas, mushrooms and dairy products.

Zinc is certainly a vital nutrient given it plays such an integral role from conception to birth and thereafter.  Eating a well balance diet and maintaining the good zinc levels all the way through pregnancy may optimise the best outcome for mothers and infants. 



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