Background A nutrient-rich maternal diet before and during pregnancy is associated with improved fetal health, more appropriate birth weight, and increased rates of maternal and infant survival. Physicians need a better understanding of the role of diet in shaping fetal outcomes. Given this background, we reviewed and summarized articles on maternal nutrition found in MEDLINE since 1981, written in English, and limited to human subjects. For the Offspring Maternal diets high in sugar and fat lead to an increased incidence of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease later in life. Folic acid should be supplemented prior to conception and continued through at least the first 28 days of fetal life to prevent neural tube defects, and vitamin C should be given to women who smoke to lower the incidence of asthma and wheezing in the children. Iodine deficiency is increasing, and iodine should be included in prenatal supplements. If the maternal hemoglobin is 7 g/dL or more, there is no evidence that iron supplementation is needed. Fish intake during pregnancy is protective against atopic outcomes, whereas high-meat diets contribute to elevated adult blood pressure and hypersecretion of cortisol. For the Mother Calcium supplementation lowers the risk of preeclampsia and hypertensive disease in pregnancy. Conclusions Given the limits of our current knowledge, a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and selected fish is desirable for the best outcomes. Diets high in sugar and fat lead to higher rates of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease. Folic acid, iodine, and calcium in all pregnant women and vitamin C in smokers are the only supplements so far shown to be of value for routine use. The physician treating a pregnant woman should be ready to advise a healthy diet for the benefit of the fetus. Target Audience Obstetricians and gynecologists, family physicians Learning Objectives After participating in this activity, the obstetricians, gynecologists, and family physicians should be better able to discuss the role of various diets in helping with healthy fetal development; understand the role of diet prior to conception and throughout the pregnancy; and develop knowledge of the role of the maternal diet in affecting the risk for development of diabetes, cardiac disease, cancer, and allergic disease in the offspring.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Obstetrics and Gynecology