The significant role of amino acids during pregnancy: nutritional support

J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2020 Jan;33(2):334-340. doi: 10.1080/14767058.2018.1489795. Epub 2018 Jul 30.


Background: Pregnancy is characterized by a complexity of metabolic processes that may impact fetal development and infant health outcome. Normal fetal growth and development depend on a continuous supply of nutrients via the placenta. The placenta transports, utilizes, produces, and interconverts amino acids (AAs).Findings: Concentrations of both nonessential and essential AAs in maternal plasma decrease in early pregnancy and persist at low concentrations throughout. The decline is greatest for the glucogenic AAs and AAs of the urea cycle. Additionally, there is a large placental utilization of the branched-chain AAs, some of which are transaminated to alpha ketoacids and contribute to placental ammonia production. Both nonessential and essential AAs regulate key metabolic pathways to improve health, survival, growth, development, lactation, and reproduction of organisms. Some of the nonessential AAs (e.g. glutamine, glutamate, and arginine) play also important roles in regulating gene expression, cell signaling, antioxidant responses, immunity, and neurological function.Conclusions: Nutritional support during pregnancy is of great interest focusing not only to common pregnancies but also to those with low socioeconomic status, vegan-vegetarian groups, and pregnant women with metabolic disorders, the most known maternal phenylketonuria. The latter is of great interest because phenylalanine must be within the recommended range throughout pregnancy in addition to other nutrients such as vitamin B12, folate, etc. Loss of the adherence to this specific diet results in congenital malformations of the fetus. In addition to the routine laboratory test, quantitation of plasma AAs may be necessary throughout pregnancy.

Keywords: Amino acids; maternal PKU; nutrition; placenta; pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / blood*
  • Female
  • Fetal Development
  • Humans
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology
  • Nutritional Support / methods*
  • Placenta / metabolism
  • Pregnancy


  • Amino Acids