We investigated the association between maternal zinc level during pregnancy and the risks of low birth weight (LBW) and small for gestational age (SGA) infants in a large population-based birth cohort study. In this study, 3187 pregnant women were recruited. For serum zinc level, 2940 pregnant women were sufficient (≥56 μg/dL) and 247 deficient (<56 μg/dL). Of interest, 7.3% newborns were with LBW among subjects with low zinc level ( RR: 3.48; 95% CI: 2.03, 5.96; P < 0.001). Adjusted RR for LBW was 3.41 (95% CI: 1.97, 5.91; P < 0.001) among subjects with low zinc level. Moreover, 15.0% newborns were with SGA among subjects with low zinc level ( RR: 1.98; 95% CI: 1.36, 2.88; P < 0.001). Adjusted RR for SGA was 1.93 (95% CI: 1.32, 2.82; P < 0.001) among subjects with low zinc level. A nested case-control study within above cohort showed that maternal serum zinc level was lower in SGA cases as compared with controls. By contrast, maternal serum C-reactive protein, TNF-α and IL-8 levels were significantly higher in SGA cases than that of controls. Moreover, nuclear NF-κB p65 was significantly up-regulated in placentas of SGA cases as compared with controls. Taken together, maternal zinc deficiency during pregnancy elevates the risks of LBW and SGA infants.