Role of Protein During Pregnancy & Breast Feeding

Protein plays an important role during the period of pregnancy. The daily protein requirement of a healthy adult woman is 1.0 gram per kilogram body weight per day. However, during pregnancy the daily protein requirement goes up steadily to support weight gain. The protein requirement of a pregnant woman goes up slightly during the 1st trimester. The additional protein requirement during 1st trimester is 0.5 gram per kilo gram body weight per day. The requirement goes up to 6.9 gram and 22.7 gram per kilo gram body weight per day during 2nd and 3rd trimester respectively. A pregnant woman requires additional of protein daily to support-

  • Rapid growth of the foetus
  • Enlargement of the uterus, mammary glands and placenta
  • Increase in maternal circulating blood volume and subsequent demand of increased plasma protein
  • Formation of amniotic fluid and storage or reserves for labor, delivery and lactation
  • For transfer of amino acids from the mother to the foetus

If the protein requirements are not met during pregnancy, it can affect both the mother and the foetus. It can increase the risk of developing anaemia during pregnancy, intra uterine growth restriction (IUGR), spontaneous abortion, still birth, poor maternal weight gain and complications during delivery. It may also have an impact on pregnancy outcomes leading to preterm birth, small-for-gestation-age infants and low birth weight delivery.

Lactation is also an important phase during which adequate intake of protein is very important. Human milk is the sole source of nutrition during the first six months of an infant’s life as the infant is completely dependent on mother’s milk for right nutrition. During the first month after delivery, 16 grams per kilogram body weight per day of additional dietary protein is needed. The requirement progressively decreases to 15.5 grams per kilogram body weight per day by 6 months. The protein requirement goes down to 10 grams per kilogram body weight per day from 6 months up to 12 months. Dietary proteins are essential to :

  • Promote adequate supply of breast milk
  • To build tissues, muscles and promote weight gain
  • Support growth and maintenance of the infant
  • Help synthesize hormones, enzymes and antibodies