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Reprod Biomed Online. 2006 May;12(5):532-41.

Diet around conception and during pregnancy--effects on fetal and neonatal outcomes.

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Discipline of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Level 4, Maternity, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woodville, South Australia 5011.


Substrate supply to the fetus is a major regulator of prenatal growth. Maternal nutrition influences the availability of nutrients for transfer to the fetus. Animal experiments demonstrate that restriction of maternal protein or energy intake can retard fetal growth. Effects of maternal nutrition vary with the type and timing of the restriction and the species studied. Maternal undernutrition before conception and/or in early pregnancy can alter fetal physiology in late gestation, and influence postnatal function, often without measurable effects on birth size. In contrast, to date, observational and intervention studies in humans provide limited support for a major role of maternal nutrition in determining birth size, except where women are quite malnourished. However, recent studies report associations between newborn size and the balance of macronutrients in women's diets in Western settings. Associations between maternal dietary composition and adult blood pressure of the offspring are also reported in human populations. Most studies in women have focused on dietary content or supplementation during mid-late pregnancy. Further investigation of how maternal dietary composition, before conception and throughout pregnancy, affects fetal physiology and health of the baby will increase the understanding of how maternal diet and nutritional status influence fetal, neonatal and longer-term outcomes.

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