Researchers in Norway recently examined the eating and drinking habits of 66,000 pregnant women to see if there were any links between dietary intake during pregnancy and their risk of preterm delivery. The women were placed in one of three categories based on their diets: prudent, traditional, and Western. The study revealed that the moms who consumed the most healthy pregnancy diet demonstrated a decreased risk for preterm delivery by approximately 15%.

Leading the research was Dr. Linda Englund-Ogge, from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg. She and her colleagues worked with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health to evaluate the diets of 66,000 Norwegian women who were pregnant between 2002 and 2008. Each woman’s dietary intake (foods and beverages) was evaluated by computer along with other general lifestyle characteristics that included alcohol consumption, smoking habit, education, income, living conditions, weight, physical activity level, number of children, and medical history including previous preterm deliveries.

For the study, preterm delivery was defined as any spontaneous or induced delivery occurring before the end of week 37 of gestation. The research team considers the prevention of preterm delivery a high priority due to the acute and long-term complications associated with it.

Computerized analysis of each woman’s diet placed her in one of three dietary patterns:


  • Prudent: High consumption of vegetables eaten raw or boiled, fresh berries and other fruits, dried fruits, nuts, whole grain bread and cereals, oils for cooking, yogurt, and water as the main beverage.
  • Traditional: High consumption of fish, including fish balls and fish burgers. Lean fish, especially cod and haddock. Boiled potatoes, cooked vegetables, low-fat milk, gravy, and margarine.
  • Wester: High in salty and sweet snacks and cookies, buns, bread, and other bread products made from flours labeled as white, refined, enriched, or processed. Processed meats, pizza, tacos, ketchup, sugary beverages.

The women whose diets ranked in the top one-third of the prudent group were significantly less likely to deliver preterm than those in the lowest one-third of the prudent group. All the women in the prudent diet group were significantly more likely to deliver full-term babies than those in the other dietary groups.

The traditional diet group’s experience was much the same as the prudent group, with the highest (healthiest) third experiencing fewer preterm deliveries than the lowest third of the group.

There was no similar variance found within the group of women consuming the Western diet during pregnancy.

The research team says their study indicates diet does matter. The researchers hope their study will encourage doctors, midwives, and other medical professionals to strongly encourage maternity patients to choose the healthiest diet possible during pregnancy.

Source: Englund-Ogge, Linda, et al. “Maternal dietary patterns and preterm delivery: results from large prospective cohort study (abstract).” BMJ. BMJ Publishing Group Ltd. Mar 4, 2014. Web. Mar 14, 2014.