Researchers Hope To Improve Prenatal Nutrition

What a woman eats during pregnancy may affect her health, and the health of her unborn child. Researchers from Alberta Canada are now looking at ways to improve how mothers eat during pregnancy, and see exactly how their diet can affect their health.

Researchers in Edmonton and Calgary are studying 1,200 pregnant mothers to see what the effect of nutrition really is. Considered the largest observational study in Canada to look at what mothers are eating, the study hopes to provide real data about how the foods we eat and help or harm during pregnancy.

“There are so many conflicting messages and a lot of information that scares women out there about what pregnant women should and should not eat, I didn’t know where to turn, so I thought participating in a study is my chance to contribute to science, to do something worthwhile,” says the mom-to-be, whose first baby is due Jan. 1.

The mothers in the study get periodic blood tests to check for deficiencies, such as iron. There is also a genetic researcher involved to help look at genetic issues of the women. The researchers are hoping more women will sign up for the study so they can get a large database from which to look at.

Catherine Field, professor in the faculty of agricultural, life and environmental sciences, says there is an assumption that women in developed countries such as Canada already know how to eat a healthy diet. However, nutrient deficiencies are common among women even in more developed areas. During pregnancy, a poor diet can have an even greater impact on health and well-being.

While previous studies have looked at the links between diet and health, this is one of the first to add maternal health into the mix. The researchers believe that food plays a very important part in a mother’s well-being even after pregnancy.

“We’re linking to maternal mental health because there has been an increased reporting of perinatal depression, up to six per cent of pregnancies,” she explains.

“Women suffer, I would assume, from a lot of anxiety and stress because of what’s going to be happening, and that’s never been documented or looked at.”

Through the study, researchers hope to find exactly what factors need the most focus during and after pregnancy. As well as how maternal diet can affect the children later on. They hope to have the results of the study available next Spring. – Summer, staff writer

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Summer is a mom of three, living life in the slow lane along historic Route 66. She writes, homeschools, gardens, and is still trying to learn how to knit.

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