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Here's Everything You Need To Know About Taking Zinc While Pregnant

Merrell Readman
Author: Expert reviewer:
June 10, 2022
Merrell Readman
mbg Associate Food & Health Editor
By Merrell Readman
mbg Associate Food & Health Editor
Merrell Readman is the Associate Food & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. Readman is a Fordham University graduate with a degree in journalism and a minor in film and television. She has covered beauty, health, and well-being throughout her editorial career.
Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN
Expert review by
Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN
mbg Vice President of Scientific Affairs
Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN is Vice President of Scientific Affairs at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's degree in Biological Basis of Behavior from the University of Pennsylvania and Ph.D. in Foods and Nutrition from the University of Georgia.

Zinc is a trace mineral that is essential to the healthy function of your body, but as humans are unable to synthesize it on their own, it must be consumed within your diet and supplement routine. Responsible for supporting immune function and playing a key role in protein synthesis, cellular metabolism and more, it's safe to say this nutrient should be a staple in your daily life to promote your healthiest body.*

However, the reality is that many people (close to 40 million U.S. adults) are actually not getting enough zinc1, and one group who should be especially cognizant about their intake of this mineral is pregnant women. 

Can you take zinc while pregnant?

There are a wide array of vitamins and minerals you should take while you're expecting (think vitamin D3, folate, choline, DHA, etc.), but zinc is one that should not fall to the wayside when it comes to supporting both your health and the well-being of your unborn child.

It is a resounding yes that you should be taking zinc while pregnant, and in fact, it's actually one of the staple minerals to focus on during those nine months. It's important to note that while carrying a child your zinc needs actually increase.

How much zinc do pregnant women need?

"Zinc needs are slightly higher during pregnancy than the recommended average daily amount for women at 11 milligrams per day compared to 8 milligrams," Molly Knudsen, M.S., RDN, explains. Once you've given birth, those needs increase to a baseline of 12 milligrams of zinc during the lactation period.

Seeing as the odds are you might not be getting enough zinc in your daily diet as it is, checking your prenatal vitamins to ensure they not only contain zinc, but 100% of the DV will help support both you and the baby. Remember, 11 milligrams is the lowest amount of zinc you should be consuming each day. "For optimal health and targeted support (think immunity), zinc needs are thought to be even higher1 (15 to 30 milligrams),"* mbg's vice president of scientific affairs Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN, once explained.

Benefits of zinc during pregnancy.

It's no secret that zinc provides a variety of important benefits to the body, and this is especially true when it comes to pregnancy. "For moms, zinc supports overall immune health," explains Knudsen, noting that pregnancy can stress or even challenge the immune system, lowering your natural defenses.*

"Adequate zinc levels are required for the baby as it [promotes] proper growth of the fetus by supporting cell division and DNA replication," she adds. Put simply, zinc actually helps your baby to grow.*

Zinc and immunity during pregnancy. 

It would be ideal if those who were expecting could feel in tiptop shape throughout pregnancy, but unfortunately, your immune system still needs attention (arguably even more) during this time.

Thankfully, zinc can help to strengthen the immune system, especially when paired with immune-boosting vitamin C.* These essential micronutrients are generally included in prenatal vitamins as it is, but it will never hurt to double-check.

As Ferira explains, "Zinc and vitamin C are critically important for the development and optimal functioning of a whole host of immune cells in our innate and adaptive immune systems, our first and second lines of defense!"*

Outside of prenatal supplements, you can bolster your immune system by consuming vitamin-C-rich foods such as spinach, bell peppers, berries, and citrus fruits.

How much zinc is too much?

While it's true that zinc is an essential nutrient to consume throughout pregnancy, it's worth noting that there is the outside chance you could take too much zinc if you're not careful. "You shouldn't be getting more than 40 milligrams a day of zinc or more than 2,000 milligrams of vitamin C for an extended period of time," explains Knudsen. 

These vitamin and mineral inputs can come from both supplements and your diet. Throughout your pregnancy it's essential to check in with your doctor to ensure you're creating a routine that supports both you and your baby.

Another factor to consider? The quality of your zinc-containing supplement. "It is also important to remember that the quality matters; one supplement does not equal the other," adds OB/GYN Anna Cabeca, D.O., noting that she generally recommends a higher dose of daily zinc for her pregnant clients, but you should defer to your own doctor's recommendations at the end of the day.

How to get enough zinc. 

There are a number of ways to increase your daily intake of zinc, starting with your diet and extending to an array of supplement options. Some of the best food sources for zinc include:

  • Oysters 
  • Shellfish 
  • Beef
  • Nuts & seeds 
  • Chickpeas 
  • Pork chops

That being said, Cabeca warns, "You have to be careful with shellfish and seafood during pregnancy and avoid raw," adding, "quality matters."

As for supplements, a truly comprehensive multivitamin (that's what a prenatal should be, after all) is always a good option to cover the wide-reaching needs of a pregnancy. However, a targeted zinc-specific supplement can be useful as well, so if you're in need of some inspiration, check out the roundup of our favorite zinc supplements. "Some studies suggest that taking zinc lozenges can help and be beneficial, but always check with your doctor before taking anything over-the-counter," Cabeca adds. 

Speaking of a targeted approach to ensuring zinc sufficiency daily. Form matters. Zinc bisglycinate is especially beneficial for pregnant women as it's more gentle on the stomach and has a higher bioavailability than other zinc sources, making it more effective within the body.*

"This superior bioavailability of zinc bisglycinate versus other mineral complexes (zinc gluconate, picolinate, and oxide) also translates into higher plasma levels of zinc (i.e., more zinc is absorbed and makes its way to your bloodstream)," Ferira once explained. "In other words, zinc bisglycinate improves your overall zinc status better than other zinc supplements."* Which is, after all, the end goal of a nutritional supplement (to actually work!).

The takeaway. 

Zinc is one of the most important minerals to prioritize in your day-to-day life, but even more so throughout pregnancy. Not only does it support healthy immune function, but it also helps with the growth and development of the baby2 at the cellular and DNA level.*

Combining a zinc-rich diet alongside a prenatal and/or targeted zinc supplement is a great way to reach your 11-milligram baseline goal each day, but remember to stay cognizant of exceeding the 40-milligram limit to protect your body and limit discomfort and unsavory side effects.

With benefits linking to healthy pregnancies and immune wellness, zinc should be a staple in your pregnancy nutrition plan to help support both you and your baby.*

Merrell Readman author page.
Merrell Readman
mbg Associate Food & Health Editor

Merrell Readman is the Associate Food & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. Readman is a Fordham University graduate with a degree in journalism and a minor in film and television. She has covered beauty, health, and well-being throughout her editorial career, and formerly worked at SheFinds. Her byline has also appeared in Women’s Health. In her current role, she writes and edits for the health, movement, and food sections of mindbodygreen. Readman currently lives in New York City.