Mother's diet linked to premature birth

March 4, 2014, British Medical Journal

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

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

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.