Zinc supplementation for improving pregnancy and infant outcome

Bianca Carducci, Emily C. Keats, Zulfiqar A. Bhutta

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Background: It has been suggested that low serum zinc levels may be associated with suboptimal outcomes of pregnancy, such as prolonged labour, atonic postpartum haemorrhage, pregnancy-induced hypertension, preterm labour and post-term pregnancies, although these associations have not yet been established. This is an update of a review first published in 1997 and subsequently updated in 2007, 2012 and 2015. Objectives: 1. To compare the effects on maternal, fetal, neonatal and infant outcomes in healthy pregnant women receiving zinc supplementation versus no zinc supplementation, or placebo.
2. To assess the above outcomes in a subgroup analysis reviewing studies performed in women who are, or are likely to be, zinc-deficient. Search methods: For this update, we searched Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth’s Trials Register, ClinicalTrials.gov, the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) (3 July 2020), and reference lists of retrieved studies. Selection criteria: Randomised trials of zinc supplementation versus no zinc supplementation or placebo administration during pregnancy, earlier than 27 weeks' gestation. We excluded quasi-randomised controlled trials. We intended to include studies presented only as abstracts, if they provided enough information or, if necessary, by contacting authors to analyse them against our criteria; we did not find any such studies. Data collection and analysis: Three review authors applied the study selection criteria, assessed trial quality and extracted data. When necessary, we contacted study authors for additional information. We assessed the certainty of the evidence using GRADE. Main results: For this update, we included 25 randomised controlled trials (RCTs) involving over 18,000 women and their babies. The overall risk of bias was low in half of the studies. The evidence suggests that zinc supplementation may result in little or no difference in reducing preterm births (risk ratio (RR) 0.87, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.74 to 1.03; 21 studies, 9851 participants; low-certainty evidence). Further, zinc supplementation may make little or no difference in reducing the risk of stillbirth (RR 1.22, 95% CI 0.80 to 1.88; 7 studies, 3295 participants; low-certainty evidence), or perinatal deaths (RR 1.10, 95% CI 0.81 to 1.51; 2 studies, 2489 participants; low-certainty evidence). It is unclear whether zinc supplementation reduces neonatal death, because the certainty of the evidence is very low. Finally, for other birth outcomes, zinc supplementation may make little or no difference to mean birthweight (MD 13.83, 95% CI -15.81 to 43.46; 22 studies, 7977 participants; low-certainty evidence), and probably makes little or no difference in reducing the risk of low birthweight (RR 0.94, 95% CI 0.79 to 1.13; 17 studies, 7399 participants; moderate-certainty evidence) and small-for-gestational age babies when compared to placebo or no zinc supplementation (RR 1.02, 95% CI 0.92 to 1.12; 9 studies, 5330 participants; moderate-certainty evidence). We did not conduct subgroup analyses, as very few studies used normal zinc populations. Authors' conclusions: There is not enough evidence that zinc supplementation during pregnancy results in improvements in maternal or neonatal outcomes. Future research to address ways of improving the overall nutritional status of pregnant women, particularly in low-income regions, and not looking at zinc in isolation, should be an urgent priority.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD000230
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


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