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Do women follow dietary guidelines for pre-conception and pregnancy?

Researchers examined compliance with dietary guidelines for preconception and pregnancy and potential reasons for non-adherence among pregnant women and couples who tried to conceive a child.

Dietary guidelines are nutritional recommendations that help in the promotion of health and well-being and prevention of diet-related diseases. During the preconception period and pregnancy, non-compliance with these recommendations may negatively impact fertility, pregnancy, and infant health.

To understand the level of adherence with dietary guidelines and possible factors affecting compliance, researchers reviewed and analyzed 18 studies that were conducted across ten countries and published their results in the journal Maternal & Child Nutrition.

The study found that, overall, women did not consume enough vegetables and cereals to meet requirements of dietary guidelines for preconception and pregnancy. Also, the intake of micro-elements such as dietary folate, dietary iron, and dietary calcium was low for most women in target groups.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a healthy diet should include vegetables and cereal grains as this may help decrease the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, and improve the health of both the mother and infant. In addition, adequate folate, iron, and calcium intake lower the risk of neural tubal defect, low birth weight, maternal anemia, and pre-eclampsia.

In contrast, total fat dietary intake surpassed the daily recommendations (which is 30% of total daily energy) in slightly more than half of the reviewed studies. This dietary behavior is clinically significant as it may lead to unhealthy maternal weight gain and considerably impact maternal and fetal health.

By analyzing the data, the researchers identified three main predictors of compliance with dietary guidelines for preconception and pregnancy. Pregnant women with a higher level of education were more adherent to recommendations, and among pre-conceptual and pregnant females, older age and non-smoking status were associated with better guideline compliance. Demographic factors also had an impact on dietary guideline adherence.

“The relationship between a healthy diet and birth outcomes is well-established, yet our research suggests women may not be following the guidelines developed to help them eat well, largely because they are unaware of the guidelines in the first place,” said one of the researchers, Cherie Caut, of Endeavour College of Natural Health, in Australia. “The community needs better information about healthy eating in order to address this issue. Promoting links between diet and healthy pregnancy and birth, and increasing support for health professionals may help better inform women and their partners about the importance of dietary choices on pregnancy success.”


Written by Anna Otvodenko



Caut, C., Leach, M. and Steel, A. (2019). Dietary guideline adherence during preconception and pregnancy: A systematic review. Maternal & Child Nutrition.

EurekAlert!. (2019). Are women getting adequate nutrition during preconception and pregnancy?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Dec. 2019].

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay



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