Triglyceride metabolism in pregnancy

Adv Clin Chem. 2011:55:133-53. doi: 10.1016/b978-0-12-387042-1.00007-1.


During pregnancy, complex changes occur in lipid profiles. From the 12th week of gestation, phospholipids, cholesterol (total, LDL, HDL), and triglycerides (TG) increase in response to estrogen stimulation and insulin resistance. Transition to a catabolic state favors maternal tissue lipid use as energy sources, thus sparing glucose and amino acids for the fetus. In addition, maternal lipids, that is, cholesterol, are available for fetal use in building cell membranes and as precursor of bile acids and steroid hormones. It is also required for cell proliferation and development of the growing body. Free-fatty acids (FFA), oxidized in the maternal liver as ketone-bodies, represent an alternative fuel for the fetus. Maternal hypertriglyceridemia (vs. other lipids) has many positive effects such as contributing to fetal growth and development and serving as an energy depot for maternal dietary fatty acids. However, increased TG during pregnancy appears to increase risk of preeclampsia and preterm birth. Some have suggested that maternal hypertriglyceridemia has a role in increasing cardiovascular risk later in life. This chapter reviews lipid metabolism during pregnancy to elucidate its effect on fetal growth and its potential role in pregnancy-associated complications and future cardiovascular risk.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Cholesterol / metabolism
  • Diabetes, Gestational / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fetal Development / physiology*
  • Fetus / metabolism*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypertriglyceridemia / complications
  • Hypertriglyceridemia / metabolism*
  • Hypertriglyceridemia / physiopathology
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / metabolism*
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / metabolism
  • Ketone Bodies / metabolism
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange / physiology*
  • Placenta / metabolism*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk
  • Triglycerides / metabolism*


  • Ketone Bodies
  • Triglycerides
  • Cholesterol
  • Glucose