Did you know that the nutritional status of a woman is critical to healthy fetal development and mother’s well being? During pregnancy, the mother has increased need for micronutrients to support her baby’s growth. In this article, we cover some of the most important minerals required for a successful pregnancy outcome.


Our bodies require relatively large amounts of magnesium in order to activate various essential metabolic enzymes. Dietary sources include meat and diary products, bread, cereals, and vegetables.

Magnesium plays a significant role in blood pressure regulation by producing arterial relaxation. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to preeclampsia, a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy which may commonly be characterised by significantly lower serum magnesium levels than non-pregnant, healthy individuals.


Copper is important for connective tissue formation, iron metabolism, cardiac function, immune function, and central nervous system development. Copper is required for blood cell formation, making it especially important during pregnancy. Copper is also an essential cofactor for antioxidant enzymes, including Copper/Zinc superoxide dismutase (SOD) and cytochrome C oxidase. Both play an important role in combatting the oxidative stress associated with pregnancy. Without this protective mechanism, increased oxidative stress may contribute to poor pregnancy outcomes such as preeclampsia, fetal growth restriction and sporadic miscarriage.

Copper can be found in dietary sources such as shellfish, nuts, seeds, legumes, bran, liver and organ meats.


Selenium is an essential trace element with important antioxidant properties. Dietary selenium is obtained from foods such as nuts (especially Brazil nuts), cereals, meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, fruit and vegetables. The selenium content of food depends on its bioavailability in the soil and therefore varies by geographical region.

Pregnancy is associated with a decline in selenium levels due to baby’s uptake of selenium, as well as to meet the increased oxidative demands of pregnancy. Without sufficient antioxidant enzymes containing selenium, the mother is at greater risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes such as as miscarriage, preeclampsia gestational diabetes, premature birth and fetal growth restriction.

Where selenium levels are low, supplementation with selenium could reduce oxidative stress and improve pregnancy outcomes. A hair tissue mineral analysis would be able to help you ascertain your body’s selenium status and specific requirements.

Daily RDIMagnesiumCopperZincCalciumIodineManganeseSeleniumIron
Female adult320 mg1.2 mg8 mg1000 mg150 mcg5.0 mg60 mcg18 mg
Pregnancy350 mg1.3 mg11 mg1300 mg220 mcg5.0 mg65 mcg27 mg
Upper limit350 mg10 mg40 mg2500 mg1100 mcgNP400 mcg45 mg
Abbreviations: RDI, recommended dietary intake; NP, not possible to set – may be insufficient evidence or no clear level for adverse effects. Values taken from theNational Health and Medical Research Council.

Table 1: Requirements of trace element intakes in the general population and during pregnancy


  1. Essentiality of Trace Element Micronutrition in Human Pregnancy: A Systematic Review, Journal of Pregnancy and Child Health, Briohny H Spencer, Jessica J Vanderlelie and Anthony V Perkins.