Study finds many pregnant women are not meeting basic nutritional targets

What was the aim of the study?

The study, published in Women and Birth, examined pregnant women’s diets in relation to the Australian Guidelines for Healthy Eating (AGHE). It also looked at pregnant women’s attitudes towards pregnancy-specific nutrition information.

Who participated in the study?

A total of 388 pregnant women completed the survey, from five hospitals in New South Wales and through an online link.

What were the results?

The majority of participants reported that they were highly motivated to follow a healthy diet during their pregnancy and that they were trying to do so. Knowing about nutrition during pregnancy was thought to be highly important. Despite women’s views on the importance of nutrition during pregnancy, their actual diets were in fact poor. No pregnant women met the AGHE’s recommended intakes for all five food groups. More than half (52%) were eating too much meat and 30% were eating too much dairy. In addition, around 90% failed to eat enough fruit, vegetables and cereals. Only one in three women were aware of the AGHE.

What do the researchers say?

The researchers concluded that health professionals “should not assume that pregnant women are well informed about the dietary guidelines and are consuming a healthy diet.”

What do the results mean for health professionals and public health programs?

Health professionals would find it beneficial to refer pregnant women to the AGHE, specifically those which refer to fruit, vegetables and cereals. While it is reassuring that many pregnant women are motivated to eat a healthy diet, they are not always sure of what that involves. There is a real need for continued public health campaigns promoting  the content of the AGHE for pregnant women and/or dispelling myths about what pregnant women can eat.

What do the results mean for women?

A pregnant woman’s diet not only has an impact on her own health but also the health of her baby. Therefore, it is vital that pregnant women have access to information on diet during pregnancy that is easily understood and accessible. It seems that with all the information on what foods women should avoid during pregnancy to avoid conditions like listeriosis, women have been left confused about what they can safely eat. For example, women are often told not to eat packaged salads but this can result in women avoiding salads entirely.

Last updated: September 2016

©Women's Health Queensland Wide Inc. This article was written by Kirsten Braun and reviewed by the Women's Health Queensland Wide editorial committee. It was published in Health Journey 2016 Issue 3.


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