Maternal Health, Research Summary

The risk of two important adverse outcomes of pregnancy -- Preterm Birth and Preeclampsia -- may be selenium responsive. Pregnancy is a dynamic process characterized by an apparent increase in maternal utilization of selenium. Without supplementation, blood levels of selenium progressivelyMaternal-Health-Research-Review-Cypress-sm decline during pregnancy and lactation. Inadequate selenium status in infants may enhance their vulnerability to adverse health outcomes, including bacterial infection (sepsis), impaired neurological development, and autism.

In this executive research summary, evidence supporting the importance of selenium to maternal and infant health is presented from genetic, observational, and interventional studies. Genetic studies --  the linking of particular gene variations with particular health outcomes -- can provide useful clues to implicating selenium in key mechanistic pathways that contribute to disease.  Observational studies test populations of women and infants for associations between selenium status (selenium concentration in blood, hair, or toenails) and risk for particular health outcomes. Finally, interventional studies seek to test whether supplementation with selenium can reduce the risk for adverse health outcomes. Taken together, these are the kinds of scientific evidence that will contribute to the ongoing, deepening understanding of the linkage between selenium, reproductive and infant health. This summary is intended to serve as a starting point for extending dialogue regarding the adequacy of the conventional thinking about the benefits of selenium in a maternal and infant health setting and to provoke the progressive thinking that will inevitably re-shape current practice.

Summary Statements:

  • Low maternal selenium status is associated with an increased risk of preterm birth.
  • Maternal supplementation with high-selenium yeast has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of spontaneous preterm birth.
  • Low maternal selenium status is associated with an increased risk of preeclampsia.
  • Maternal supplementation with high-selenium yeast has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of developing preeclampsia.
  • Selenium supplementation of preterm infants may reduce the incidence of life-threatening sepsis.
  • Higher maternal selenium status is associated with improved early neurological development.
  • Preterm birth and low selenium status in children have been associated with autism.
  • Adequate selenium intake may be important in ameliorating the toxic effects of heavy metals,
    such as cadmium, lead, and mercury.

 

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