The study selected participants from the larger Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study which followed women’s health, diet, and lifestyle from 2002 to 2008. Study participants who became pregnant during that time were given two questionnaires 15 weeks into their pregnancies; the first covered lifestyle, background, illness, and health history; the second collected information about dietary habits during pregnancy via a food frequency questionnaire. According to their reported food intakes, the women were categorized into 3 main groups according to diet: prudent diet, traditional diet, or western diet. These were according to general patterns and allowed for the occasional deviations to be expected during pregnancy:
Prudent Diet: mostly raw and cooked vegetables, salad, onion/leek/garlic, fruit and berries, nuts, vegetable oils, water as beverage, whole grain cereals, poultry, and fiber rich bread; very little processed meat products (hot dogs, hamburgers, etc.), white bread, or pizza/tacos.
Traditional (Scandinavian) Diet: boiled potatoes, fish products, gravy, lean fish, margarine, rice pudding, low fat milk, and cooked vegetables; very little poultry or pizza/tacos.
Western Diet: salty snacks, chocolate and sweets, cakes, French fries, white bread, ketchup, sugar-sweetened drinks, processed meat products, and pasta; very little lean fish or fiber rich bread.
After following up with pregnancy outcomes, the researchers found the incidence of preterm birth was 10% less for women who followed a Traditional Diet and 11% less for those who followed a Prudent Diet, than for those women who usually consumed a more Westernized Diet. While this is a correlation, and not necessarily a cause and effect relationship between diet and preterm birth, the implications are that dietary habits may effect pregnancy outcome. More specifically, a healthy, balanced diet may help you carry your baby to full term. Even if it turns out that this is just a huge coincidence, it couldn’t hurt to eat healthy during pregnancy, for your sake and for the sake of your baby. There are lots of other benefits to eating a diet of whole grains, veggies, fruits, and lean protein sources, and avoiding processed and fast foods – especially during pregnancy and nursing. Benefits which include more stable blood sugar levels, fewer mood swings, healthy weight gain, better blood pressure control, less water retention and inflammation, and better nourishment for your baby. You both win if you eat right!
Linda Englund-Ogge, e. a. (March 2014). Maternal Dietary Patterns and Preterm Delivery: Results from Large Prospective Cohort Study. British Medical Journal.