Many Pregnant Women Not Meeting Dietary Guidelines

By Lisa Rapaport

December 20, 2019

(Reuters Health) - Many women who are pregnant or trying to conceive have poor diets that could increase the risk for pregnancy complications, a research review suggests.

The analysis of results from 18 previously published studies that assessed pregnancy and preconception diet quality found that women generally didn't consume the minimum recommended amount of vegetables, grains, folate, iron, or calcium. Many pregnant women also get too many calories from fat, the research showed.

"For preconceptual and pregnancy health, vegetables are an important source of folate, and cereal grains a valuable source of folate and iron," said Cherie Caut of Endeavour College of Natural Health in Queensland, Australia, who led the study.

Folate and iron help prevent neural tube defects in babies, and reduce the potential for anemia during pregnancy or low birthweight infants, Caut said by email. Calcium helps protect against preeclampsia.

"Excess dietary fat intake may potentially contribute to unhealthy maternal weight gain," Caut added. "The impact of this weight gain for both the mother and infant can be considerable, with maternal obesity shown to be associated with an increased risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, macrosomia, congenital abnormalities, stillbirth, low birthweight infants and maternal mortality."

During the months right before conception, women generally got enough dairy and more than enough protein. And they generally got enough dairy and fruit during pregnancy, the researchers report in Maternal & Child Nutrition.

Women were more likely to follow dietary guidelines when they were more affluent, nonsmokers, older, and exercised regularly, the study also found.

Dietary information for pregnant women is available from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (here: https://bit.ly/36OEFAw).

More than half of the 18 studies were done in Australia, China, and India, and the rest were from Europe, Canada, Japan, and Pakistan. All of the studies measured womens' adherence to national dietary guidelines, not international guidelines, the study authors note. And none looked at men's pre-conception diet quality.

It's possible that more women would follow guidelines if they understood the recommendations and had an easy time accessing and affording groceries, the study team notes.

"Concordance with these guidelines should provide some assurance that energy, macronutrient and micronutrient intake are adequate to support fertility, pregnancy and positive birth outcomes, as well as the future health of offspring," Caut said. "The findings from this review indicate that women both in the preconception period and throughout pregnancy, may be falling short of targets stipulated in dietary guidelines and nutrient recommendations."

SOURCE: https://bit.ly/2Zbcppf Maternal & Child Nutrition, online December 2, 2019.

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