Though experts have identified several risk factors for premature birth, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Queensland explored how pregnant women could help protect themselves from preterm birth.
According to the researchers, following a diet heavy in vegetables could be key to reducing the risk for premature birth.
“Traditional vegetables are rich in antioxidants or anti-inflammatory nutrients, which have a significant role in reducing the risk of adverse birth outcomes,” said researcher Dereje Gete. “Women depend on certain stored nutrients such as calcium and iron before conception, which are critical for placenta and fetus tissue development.”
Benefits of a healthy diet
To better understand how vegetables could help during pregnancy, the researchers had nearly 7,000 women from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH) involved in the study. All of the women were experiencing their first pregnancies over the course of the study.
The women reported on their diets both before and during their pregnancies, which gave the researchers a better idea of how food choice played a role in how they carried their babies.
In analyzing different eating habits, the researchers learned that women who consumed more vegetables were less likely to give birth early. This was especially true when vegetables were the primary component of the women’s diets. These findings are important because of the countless risks associated with preterm births.
“People born prematurely face a greater risk of metabolic and chronic diseases in adulthood, as well as poor cognitive development and academic performance,” said researcher Gita Mishra.
Consistency is key when it comes to following a healthy diet, and it’s best to start early. The researchers say it’s important for women to be conscious about their vegetable intake prior to pregnancy, as trying to be healthier after conception may not yield the same results.
“Starting a healthier diet after the baby has been conceived may be too late, because babies are fully formed by the end of the first trimester,” said Gete.