How Diet Can Affect Pregnancy

Healthy eating before and during pregnancy may lower risk of complications

(RxWiki News) A healthy diet before and during your pregnancy may provide some big benefits.

A new study found that healthy eating around the time of conception and through the second trimester may reduce the risk of pregnancy complications.

Pregnancy complications include preterm birth, gestational diabetes and pregnancy-related blood pressure disorders.

According to this study, between 6 and 9 percent of pregnant women in the US will develop gestational diabetes. And roughly 9 percent will develop a pregnancy-related blood pressure disorder like preeclampsia. Also, around 10 percent of births in the US are preterm.

But women who have a healthy diet may face a lower overall risk of these types of complications, according to the study authors.

To conduct this research, the study authors analyzed diet survey responses from 1,887 pregnant women. They assessed diet health based on three measures: the Alternate Healthy Eating Index, the Alternate Mediterranean Diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. While these three measures had somewhat different standards, they all emphasize limiting processed and red meat and eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes.

Women who followed any of the three diets near conception and through the second trimester had a lower risk of preterm delivery, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and preeclampsia.

Each diet was linked to slightly different positive results. For example, a high score for the DASH diet at 24 to 29 weeks of pregnancy was linked to a 50 percent lower risk of preterm birth. Meanwhile, having a high Alternate Healthy Eating Index score at 16 to 22 weeks was tied to a 32 percent lower risk of gestational diabetes.

Before making any major diet changes during pregnancy, speak with your doctor.

This study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funded this research. The study authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
June 6, 2021
Last Updated:
June 15, 2021