A review of the impact of dietary intakes in human pregnancy on infant birthweight

Nutrients. 2014 Dec 29;7(1):153-78. doi: 10.3390/nu7010153.


Studies assessing maternal dietary intakes and the relationship with birthweight are inconsistent, thus attempting to draw inferences on the role of maternal nutrition in determining the fetal growth trajectory is difficult. The aim of this review is to provide updated evidence from epidemiological and randomized controlled trials on the impact of dietary and supplemental intakes of omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, zinc, folate, iron, calcium, and vitamin D, as well as dietary patterns, on infant birthweight. A comprehensive review of the literature was undertaken via the electronic databases Pubmed, Cochrane Library, and Medline. Included articles were those published in English, in scholarly journals, and which provided information about diet and nutrition during pregnancy and infant birthweight. There is insufficient evidence for omega-3 fatty acid supplements' ability to reduce risk of low birthweight (LBW), and more robust evidence from studies supplementing with zinc, calcium, and/or vitamin D needs to be established. Iron supplementation appears to increase birthweight, particularly when there are increases in maternal hemoglobin concentrations in the third trimester. There is limited evidence supporting the use of folic acid supplements to reduce the risk for LBW; however, supplementation may increase birthweight by ~130 g. Consumption of whole foods such as fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and lean meats throughout pregnancy appears beneficial for appropriate birthweight. Intervention studies with an understanding of optimal dietary patterns may provide promising results for both maternal and perinatal health. Outcomes from these studies will help determine what sort of dietary advice could be promoted to women during pregnancy in order to promote the best health for themselves and their baby.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Calcium, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Diet*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Fetal Development
  • Folic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Iron, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Malnutrition / blood
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Nutritional Status
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Pregnancy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage


  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Iron, Dietary
  • Vitamin D
  • Folic Acid