In a new study, participants completed a scientifically evaluated questionnaire about what they had been eating and drinking since becoming pregnant. (Agencies)
The results show that the group of women with the 'healthiest' pregnancy diet had a roughly 15 per cent lower risk of preterm delivery compared with those with the most unhealthy diet.
The correlation remained after controlling for ten other known risk factors for preterm delivery, researchers said.
The researchers also had access to information about the women's general lifestyle.
"Pregnant women have many reasons to choose a healthy diet with lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grain products and some types of fish, but this is the first time we can statistically link healthy eating habits to reduced risk of preterm delivery," said Linda Englund-Ogge, researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.
Preterm delivery, defined as spontaneous or induced delivery before the end of gestational week 37, can be associated with acute and long-term complications and is a major problem in modern maternity care, researchers said.
"It is not harmful to occasionally eat something unhealthy. But our study shows that the dietary recommendations given to pregnant women are important," said
"Dietary studies can be very complex. Any given food item may contain a wide range of substances and is usually consumed together with other foods. This makes it difficult to find out its exact effects of one single food.
"We show that there is a statistically established link between a healthy diet and reduced risk of preterm delivery, but our study wasn't designed to identify any underlying mechanisms," Englund-Ogge said.
In a new study, participants completed a scientifically evaluated questionnaire about what they had been eating and drinking since becoming pregnant.