Mother's diet linked to premature birth

March 4, 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.

A "traditional" dietary pattern of boiled potatoes, and cooked vegetables was also linked to a significantly lower risk.

Although these findings cannot establish causality, they support to to eat a including vegetables, fruit, whole , and fish and to drink water.

Preterm delivery (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) is associated with significant short and long term ill-health and accounts for almost 75% of all newborn deaths.

Evidence shows that a mother's dietary habits can directly affect her unborn child, so researchers based in Sweden, Norway and Iceland set out to examine whether a link exists between maternal diet and preterm delivery.

Using data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, they analysed preterm births among 66,000 women between 2002 and 2008.

To be included, participants had to be free of diabetes, have delivered a live single baby, and completed a validated food frequency questionnaire on dietary habits during the first four to five months of pregnancy.

Factors that may have affected the results (known as confounding), including a mother's age, history of preterm delivery and education were taken into account. Preterm delivery was defined as delivery between 22 and <37 weeks of pregnancy.

The researchers identified three distinct dietary patterns, interpreted as "prudent" (vegetables, fruits, oils, as a beverage, whole grain cereals, poultry, fibre rich bread), "Western" (salty and sweet snacks, white bread, desserts, processed meat products), and "traditional" (potatoes, fish, gravy, cooked vegetables, low fat milk).

Among the 66,000 pregnant women, preterm delivery occurred in 3,505 (5.3%) cases.

After adjusting for several confounding factors, the team found that an overall "prudent" dietary pattern was associated with a significantly reduced risk of preterm delivery, especially among women having their first baby, as well as spontaneous and late preterm delivery.

They also found a significantly reduced risk of preterm delivery for the "traditional" dietary pattern. However, the "Western" dietary pattern was not independently associated with preterm delivery.

This indicates that increasing the intake of foods associated with a prudent dietary pattern is more important than totally excluding processed food, fast food, junk food, and snacks, say the authors.

They stress that a direct (causal) link cannot be drawn from the results, but say the findings suggest that "diet matters for the risk of preterm delivery, which may reassure medical practitioners that the current dietary recommendations are sound but also inspire them to pay more attention to dietary counselling."

These findings are important, as prevention of preterm delivery is of major importance in modern obstetrics. They also indicate that might actually be modified by maternal diet, they conclude.

In an accompanying editorial, Professor Lucilla Poston at King's College London, says healthy eating in pregnancy is always a good idea.

She points to several studies that have proposed the benefit of a diet rich in fruit and/or in prevention of premature birth, and says health professionals "would therefore be well advised to reinforce the message that pregnant women eat a healthy diet."

Explore further: Study's results encourage expectant monitoring for women with hypertension

Related Stories

Study's results encourage expectant monitoring for women with hypertension

February 3, 2014
In a study to be presented on Feb. 6 at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's annual meeting, The Pregnancy Meeting ™, in New Orleans, researchers will report findings that recommend expectant monitoring instead of ...

Preterm birth risk increases for pregnant women exposed to phthalates

November 18, 2013
The odds of preterm delivery appear to increase for pregnant women exposed to phthalates, chemicals people are exposed to through contaminated food and water and in a variety of products including lotions, perfumes and deodorants, ...

Sweetened soft drinks linked to preterm birth

August 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 birth since it ...

Pre-eclampsia poses cerebral palsy risk for premature and small babies

July 9, 2013
Exposure to pre-eclampsia is associated with an increased risk of cerebral palsy in newborns, if they are preterm or small at birth, suggests a study published today in BMJ.

Obesity increases the risk of preterm delivery

June 11, 2013
The risk of preterm delivery increases with maternal overweight and obesity, according to a new Swedish study published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Women with the highest Body Mass Index (BMI) also ...

Recommended for you

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

High-dose vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles for children

July 18, 2017
Giving children high doses of vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles, a new study has found.

Scientists develop new supplement that can repair, rejuvenate muscles in older adults

July 18, 2017
Whey protein supplements aren't just for gym buffs according to new research from McMaster university. When taken on a regular basis, a combination of these and other ingredients in a ready-to-drink formula have been found ...

Study: Eating at 'wrong time' affects body weight, circadian rhythms

July 18, 2017
A new high-precision feeding system for lab mice reinforces the idea that the time of day food is eaten is more critical to weight loss than the amount of calories ingested.

0 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.