About The Buzz: Mom’s Diet Linked to Preterm Delivery?

TheBUZZ Mom’s diet linked to preterm delivery?


A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can significantly reduce the risk of preterm delivery.


Using data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, a team of researchers from Norway, Sweden, and Iceland studied the dietary habits of 66,000 pregnant women in Norway over a six-year period. The diet of these women was evaluated based on food frequency questionnaires they completed during the first 4-5 months of pregnancy. The research was set up to determine if there is an association between diet and preterm delivery (between the 22nd and 37th week of pregnancy).

3 Distinct Dietary Patterns Identified

  1. Prudent (vegetables, fruits, oils, water as beverage, whole-grain cereals, and fiber-rich bread)
  2. Traditional (potatoes, fish, gravy, cooked vegetables, low-fat milk)
  3. Western (salty and sweet snacks, white bread, desserts, and processed meat products)

The Findings

  • Among the 66,000 study participants, preterm delivery occurred in 3,505 or 5.3% of cases.
  • The pregnant women who followed the “prudent” diet had a significantly lower risk of preterm delivery, as well as spontaneous and late preterm delivery.
  • Researchers also found a significantly reduced risk of preterm delivery for the “traditional” dietary pattern.
  • The “Western” dietary pattern was not independently associated with preterm delivery. (Researchers concluded that the increased intake of foods associated with the “prudent” and “traditional” dietary patterns is more important than totally excluding the foods associated with the typical “Western” diet.)
  • While a direct (causal) link cannot be drawn from these study results, researchers concluded that preterm delivery can actually be modified by maternal diet.

This study suggests that what a pregnant woman eats does matter when it comes to preterm delivery. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables may have a positive effect on the outcome of her pregnancy, as well as the long-term health of her child.1


Each year, preterm birth affects nearly 500,000 babies—that’s 1 of every 8 infants born in the United States. It’s the leading cause of long-term neurological problems in children and accounts for 35% of all infant deaths, more than any other single cause.2

Healthy eating during pregnancy has been shown to reduce the risk of preterm labor. That’s why it’s so important to eat a balanced diet that includes food grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat and other proteins, including beans.

Some of the most essential nutrients needed during pregnancy are naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables …

  • Folate to prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord*

      *Because this is such an important nutrient to the developing fetus, pregnant women should also take a folic acid supplement as prescribed by their doctor in addition to eating foods rich in folate.
  • Calcium for strong bones
  • Vitamin D for bone health
      How to Get It > Calcium- and vitamin D-fortified 100% orange juice

How to Get Enough Fruits & Veggies Daily
Fill Half Your Plate with Fruits & Veggies
Meal Planning Tips
Recipes with Lots of Fruits & Veggies

Tips for Healthy Eating During Pregnancy
Making Healthy Food Choices During Pregnancy (CDC)
Healthy Living: Pregnancy Nutrition Week by Week (Mayo Clinic)

Note: This information is for general guidance only and is not intended to replace medical advice from your doctor or other health care professional.


1 Englund-Ogge, Linda, A. Brantsaeter, V. Sengpiel, et.al. “Maternal dietary patterns and preterm delivery: results from large prospective cohort study.” BMJ 2014; 348:g1446 . Accessed April 16, 2014. View Article

2 Preterm Birth.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed April 16, 2014. View Article

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