Healthy eating may reduce the risk of preterm delivery

Healthy eating may reduce the risk of preterm delivery
Credit: The University of Gothenburg

A diet based on fruits and vegetables, whole grain products and some types of fish seems to reduce the risk of preterm delivery. This is the conclusion of a Nordic study on 66,000 pregnant Norwegian women published in the British Medical Journal.

In the study, which was conducted by researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Sahlgrenska University Hospital and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the participants completed a scientifically evaluated questionnaire about what they had been eating and drinking since becoming pregnant.

The researchers also had access to information about the women's general lifestyle e.g. level of education, living conditions, income, weight, , smoking habits, , number of children and medical factors such as history of preterm delivery.

15 % lower risk

The results show that the group of women with the 'healthiest' pregnancy diet had a roughly 15 % lower risk of preterm delivery compared with those with the most unhealthy diet. The correlation remained after controlling for ten other known risk factors for preterm delivery.

'Pregnant women have many reasons to choose a healthy diet with lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grain products and some types of fish, but this is the first time we can statistically link habits to reduced risk of preterm delivery,' says Linda Englund-Ögge, researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.

Associated with complications

Preterm delivery, defined as spontaneous or induced delivery before the end of gestational week 37, can be associated with acute and long-term complications and is a major problem in modern maternity care. Measures to prevent preterm delivery are therefore of high priority.

Should this lead to revised dietary recommendations for pregnant women?

'No, and it is not harmful to occasionally eat something unhealthy. But our study shows that the dietary recommendations given to pregnant women are important,' says Englund-Ögge:

'Dietary studies can be very complex. Any given food item may contain a wide range of substances and is usually consumed together with other foods. This makes it difficult to find out its exact effects of one single food. We show that there is a statistically established link between a healthy diet and reduced risk of preterm delivery, but our study wasn't designed to identify any underlying mechanisms.

Encourage healthy eating habits

Englund-Ögge says that studies of the overall dietary pattern and the total quality of the foods consumed are important complements to coming studies of how single food items affect the risk of . The researchers are hoping that the study will inspire doctors, midwives and others who work with pregnant women to encourage .

More information: The title of the article is Maternal dietary patterns and preterm delivery - results from large prospective cohort study. Date of publication in BMJ: 4 March. Link to the article: www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g1446

Related Stories

Mother's diet linked to premature birth

date Mar 04, 2014

Pregnant women who eat a "prudent" diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and who drink water have a significantly reduced risk of preterm delivery, suggests a study published in BMJ today.

Sweetened soft drinks linked to preterm birth

date Aug 30, 2012

Sweetened (sugar-sweetened and artificially-sweetened) drinks may be linked to preterm birth, according to a recent joint study between Norwegian and Swedish researchers. It is important to prevent preterm ...

Recommended for you

UK doctors unlikely to be able to repay student loans

date 6 hours ago

UK doctors are unlikely to be able to repay their student loans over the course of their working lives, amassing debts of more than £80,000 by the time they graduate, in some cases, finds research published in the online ...

Reducing global tobacco use

date 13 hours ago

Although global efforts to cut tobacco use have had some success, more can be done to reduce the number of deaths from smoking, according to a commentary published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal). ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.