Peer Reviewed


Diet During Pregnancy Impacts Complication Risk

Pregnant women who follow healthy dietary patterns have a lower risk of pregnancy complications, according to the results of a recent study.

A prospective and longitudinal study was conducted to examine how adherence to alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), alternate Mediterranean diet (AMED), and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) impacts the risk of gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, pre-eclampsia, and preterm delivery.

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Fetal Growth Studies – Singletons was utilized for the study, which included 1887 pregnant women. All participants completed a food frequency questionnaire at 8 to 13 gestational weeks, and a 24-hour dietary recall at 16 to 22, and 24 to 29 weeks.

A lower risk of pregnancy complications was associated with healthier diets, measured by higher AHEI, AMED, and DASH scores.

Several significant inverse associations were found:

  • AHEI score at 16 to 22 weeks and gestational diabetes risk (GDM)
  • AHEI score at 24 to 29 weeks and pre-eclampsia risk
  • DASH score at 8 to 13 weeks, 16 to 22 weeks, and gestational hypertension risk
  • DASH score at 24 to 29 weeks, AMED score at 8 to 13 weeks, and preterm delivery risk


“In this multi-racial US cohort of pregnant women, greater adherence to any of the 3 healthy dietary patterns – AHEI, AMED, or DASH – during periconception through the second trimester was associated with lower risks of GDM, gestational hypertension, pre-eclampsia, and preterm delivery,” the researchers concluded. “Future intervention studies initiated in early or before pregnancy are warranted to investigate the effects of healthy dietary patterns on the prevention of common pregnancy complications.”


—Leigh Precopio



Li M, Grewal J, Hinkle SN, et al. Healthy dietary patterns and common pregnancy complications: a prospective and longitudinal study. Am J Clin Nutr. Published online June 2, 2021. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqab145