Background: There is no doubt that micronutrient deficiency is common in our environment. Replacements have thus been instituted without adequate information on specific and peculiar micronutrient needs of our people. Zinc is an essential micronutrient which is prone to maternal depletion during pregnancy and lactation. Unfortunately, studies in that regard in Nigeria has received diminutive interest.
Objectives: To determine zinc concentration during pregnancy and lactation.
Methods: This is a cohort study involving one hundred and twenty (120) pregnant women attending the antenatal clinic of one tertiary and two secondary health care institutions in Enugu. Thirty-five (35) apparently healthy, non pregnant women were used as control subjects. Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer (AAS) was used to determine the zinc levels in the serum of the mothers during pregnancy, postpartum and in the breast milk.
Results: Results showed that mean serum zinc levels were significantly decreased (P <0.0001) in pregnancy when compared with non-pregnant control subjects. The levels decreased as gestation progressed, with the lowest concentration of serum zinc obtained during the third trimester. It was also observed that serum zinc levels which decreased in pregnancy, increased non- significantly (P =0.12) in mothers postpartum. In the breast milk, zinc concentration decreased significantly (P <0.0001) as lactation progressed with the highest content evident in colostrum
. Conclusion; The observed significant decreases in the levels of zinc during pregnancy and in breast milk places the mothers and their neonates at risk and thus, necessitate maternal supplementation. Dietary interventions such as food diversification and biofortification are recommended to improve dietary zinc intakes in pregnant and lactating mothers, and infants in this region.