Zinc is one of your body’s essential minerals and is vital for good health, particularly during pregnancy and lactation due to the role zinc plays in fetal growth and development.

Zinc is widely distributed throughout your body and has a range of different functions which include:

  • Helps your immune system fight off nasty infections
  • Contributes to the growth and strength of muscle and bone
  • Is needed for good wound healing and maintaining the strength of healthy skin
  • Helps create healthy thick hair
  • Contributes to male sexual function by protecting the prostate gland from infection and maintaining sperm count and motility
  • Taste and smell sensation

During pregnancy additional zinc is required for the growth and development of your baby, in particular for their brain and other nervous system organs such as the spinal cord. It is vital that you meet requirements especially during the 1st trimester when this growth is greatest.

What will happen if I become zinc deficient?

If you are zinc deficient during pregnancy or lactation, this has an impact on both you and your baby. If the deficiency is severe, this can interfere with your baby’s normal brain development and result in deficient functioning throughout childhood.

Although not yet scientifically proven, it has been suggested that a zinc deficiency can lead to reduction in your baby’s movements during pregnancy, cause poor fetal heart rate variability, and increase the risk of having a preterm birth.

In addition you may suffer from frequent chest or intestinal infections, rough and dry skin, brittle fingernails, dull hair or hair loss, delayed wound healing, sexual impotence, dermatitis and acne, white spots on fingernails and loss of appetite.

How much zinc does my body need each day?

  • Non-pregnant = 9.0mg per day.
  • Pregnancy = 11mg per day.
  • Lactation = 12 mg per day. This is because your zinc supply leaves in small amounts from your body through breastmilk.
  • Vegetarians = 15mg per day, although this depends on protein intake. This is because protein helps with zinc absorption in your body, thus a diet higher in protein seen with typical red meat diet will provide your body with more zinc in comparison to a diet rich in plant foods. If your protein intake is high then abide my normal pregnancy recommendations.

What foods will provide me with zinc?

Zinc is found in a large variety of foods, which is why we can easily meet the daily recommendations.

Oysters are the richest zinc food source however due to the risk of food-borne illnesses oysters and ALL raw seafood must be avoided during pregnancy. Liver is also rich in zinc however the amount you eat must also be limited to a maximum of 50g per week due to the danger of excessive Vitamin A intake.

The following provides a list of the richest pregnancy friendly zinc foods to include in your diet:

Liver, veal (50g, maximum per week) 2.4-2.8 mg
Red meat (75g) 4 – 8.6 mg
Chicken (75g) 0.8 – 2.2 mg
Pumpkin or squash seeds (1/4 cup) 2.7 – 4.4 mg
Baked beetroot (3/4 cup) 4.3 mg
Nuts – pine, cashew, peanut, almond (1/4 cup) 1.1 – 2.2 mg
Lentils (3/4 cup) 1.9 mg
Dried chickpeas (3/4 cup) 1.1 – 1.9 mg

Zinc supplements are not compulsory in pregnant women, however should be considered if your diet fails to meet recommendations. This should be started under the guidance of a doctor or dietitian.

If you have any further questions about zinc and your diet, please don’t hesitate to ask a question or send an email.


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