Pregnancy | Why the Immune System Needs Extra Support

Practice Points

  • During pregnancy, the innate immune system is upregulated, whilst the adaptive immune system is downregulated. This helps prevent immune cells from attacking the foetus, however, can decrease the body’s ability to fight infections.
  • Key nutrients that have a vital role in sustaining immune competency, decreasing risk of infection, and supporting foetal and neonatal immune system development are vitamins A, C, and D, and iron, selenium, zinc and omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Multiple micronutrient supplementation has been found to be more beneficial than supplementation with individual nutrients.
  • An assessment of individual needs and working closely with a healthcare practitioner is vital to ensure appropriate supplementation.

Pregnancy is a critical period involving immense physiological changes.1 One system in particular that must undertake complex adaptations in order to protect both maternal and foetal health is the immune system.2 During this highly vulnerable time, the body is faced with the challenge of maintaining its own homeostasis, whilst simultaneously nurturing a growing foetus.3 This involves a delicate immunological balance between two individuals, with the mother defending her body against pathogens whilst also tolerating foreign paternal antigens.4

Traditionally, it was thought that pregnancy involved broad maternal immune suppression, however, it is now clear that it’s much more complex than that, with a bidirectional immunological relationship existing between the mother and foetus.3

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