Chronic exposure to high doses of selenium in the first trimester of pregnancy: Case report and brief literature review

Luisa D'Oria, Massimo Apicella, Carmen De Luca, Angelo Licameli, Caterina Neri, Marcella Pellegrino, Daniela Simeone, Marco De Santis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Obstetricians usually prescribe supplements during pregnancy without actual indication. The use of selenium during pregnancy has increased, due to its function in several antioxidant mechanisms. Case: A pregnant woman received 200,000 micrograms (μg) per day of a selenium galenic formulation, since gestational week (g.w.) 7 to 12, due to a prescription error. The patient experienced nausea, vomiting, hand and foot paresthesia, followed by fatigue, loss of fingernails and hair. The woman was referred to our Fetal and Maternal Medicine Unit for surveillance. The mother's blood selenium levels went back to normal 13 weeks after arrest and the baby was born at term, without complications. Clinical evaluation and imaging studies were normal at one month of age. Conclusion: This is the first case of severe chronic selenium intoxication during the first trimester of pregnancy. In the present case, no consequences of congenital defects or pregnancy complications occurred. However, since vitamins, minerals, and food supplements may be harmful and prescription errors occur, obstetricians should avoid prescribing supplements in the absence of maternal deficiency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)372-375
Number of pages4
JournalBirth Defects Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2018


  • Fetal
  • pregnancy
  • prescription errors
  • selenium
  • supplements
  • teratogenic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Embryology
  • Toxicology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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