Protein metabolism in pregnancy

Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 May;71(5 Suppl):1249S-55S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/71.5.1249s.


Adaptation to pregnancy involves major changes in maternal metabolism to provide for the growing demands of the conceptus. Although changes in glucose metabolism, and possibly in fatty acid metabolism, occur in parallel with the increasing energy demands of the mother and the fetus, adaptation of protein metabolism appears to be in anticipation of maternal and fetal needs. During pregnancy, there is an excess of maternal nitrogen in the form of lean body mass over that deposited in the fetus and the products of conception; there is also a pregnancy-induced hypoaminoacidemia and a diminished amino acid response to protein intake, suggesting an increased uptake of amino acids in the splanchnic compartment. With the use of stable-isotope-labeled tracers, it was shown that there is a decreased rate of urea synthesis during pregnancy that is evident early in gestation. Kinetic studies of leucine metabolism showed no significant change in leucine carbon turnover but a significantly lower rate of leucine nitrogen turnover, suggesting a lower rate of leucine transamination. These data suggest an integral regulation of whole-body protein and nitrogen metabolism starting early in gestation and aimed at conservation and accretion of nitrogen by the mother and the fetus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leucine / metabolism
  • Pregnancy / metabolism*
  • Urea / metabolism


  • Dietary Proteins
  • Urea
  • Leucine