Maternal nutrition during pregnancy has a pivotal role in the regulation of placental-fetal development and thereby affects the lifelong health and productivity of offspring. Suboptimal maternal nutrition yields low birth weight, with substantial effect on the short-term morbidity of the newborn. The placenta is the organ through which gases, nutrients, and wastes are exchanged between the maternal-fetal circulations. The size, morphology, and nutrient transfer capacity of the placenta determine the prenatal growth trajectory of the fetus to influence birth weight. Transplacental exchange depends on uterine, placental, and umbilical blood flow. Most important, maternal nutrition influences factors associated not only with placental homeostasis but also with optimal fetal development. This review associates fetal growth with maternal nutrition during pregnancy, placental growth and vascular development, and placental nutrient transport.
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Vol. 83 • No. 3