Zinc Critical For Pregnancy
Babies born to mothers who take zinc during pregnancy experience several important health and growth-related benefits. Women need to consider zinc supplementation both before and during pregnancy, because deficiency of this mineral is common among women of childbearing age.
Although folic acid usually gets much attention because it helps prevent birth defects, zinc plays a key role in pregnancy as well. In fact, a woman’s requirement for zinc increases during pregnancy, mainly because the mineral is needed during development of the embryo and fetus. The result is that many pregnant women have mild to moderate zinc deficiency.
Zinc is necessary for the functioning of more than 300 different enzymes, which means it plays a role in a great number of bodily activities. Some of those activities are critical during pregnancy, because they involve embryo and fetal development as well as infant growth.
A study among nearly 1,300 pregnant women looked at the effect of selected nutrients during pregnancy and for one month after delivery. The women separated into two groups: one group took 15 mg of zinc along with a supplement that contained 60 mg of iron and 250 mcg of folic acid; the other group took the supplement without the zinc. Compared with those who took the supplement only, those who took the zinc had infants with significantly larger average growth measures that began in the fourth month and continued until one year of age.
This finding suggests that zinc supplementation helps with the accumulation of lean tissue mass, which is beneficial to a child’s health. It also supports the fact that zinc deficiency, even a mild one, can hinder growth in young children.
A zinc deficiency may also cause an increase in preterm births. According to the findings of a review of 17 trials that involved more than 9,000 women and their babies, zinc supplementation helped reduce preterm births. Another advantage of zinc supplementation during pregnancy is that it prevents specific types of memory impairments that are caused by excess alcohol use during early pregnancy.
The daily requirement for zinc during pregnancy is 15 milligrams, but a higher dose may be needed. That’s because high intake of folic acid can interfere with absorption of zinc and thus create a deficiency of this mineral. Therefore, it is best to limit intake of folic acid to no more than 800 mg daily. Women should consult their physician before taking zinc or any other supplement during pregnancy.
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