Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Diet and pregnancy status in Australian women

Alexis Hurea1a2 c1, Anne Younga3, Roger Smitha2 and Clare Collinsa1

a1 Nutrition and Dietetics, School of Health Sciences, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales 2308, Australia

a2 Mothers and Babies Research Centre, Hunter Medical Research Institute, John Hunter Hospital, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

a3 Research Centre for Gender, Health and Ageing, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia


Objective To investigate and report the diet quality of young Australian women by pregnancy status.

Design Pregnancy status was defined as pregnant (n 606), trying to conceive (n 454), had a baby in the last 12 months (n 829) and other (n 5597). The Dietary Questionnaire for Epidemiological Studies was used to calculate diet quality using the Australian Recommended Food Score (ARFS) methodology. Nutrient intakes were compared with the Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand.

Setting A population-based cohort participating in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH).

Subjects A nationally representative sample of Australian women, aged 25 to 30 years, who completed Survey 3 of the ALSWH. The 7486 women with biologically plausible energy intake estimates, defined as >4·5 but <20·0 MJ/d, were included in the analyses.

Results Pregnancy status was not significantly predictive of diet quality, before or after adjusting for area of residence and socio-economic status. Pregnant women and those who had given birth in the previous 12 months had marginally higher ARFS (mean (se): 30·2 (0·4) and 30·2 (0·3), respectively) than ‘other’ women (29·1 (0·1)). No single food group accounted for this small difference. Across all pregnancy categories there were important nutrients that did not meet the current nationally recommended levels of intake, including dietary folate and fibre.

Conclusion Women do not appear to consume a wider variety of nutritious foods when planning to become pregnant or during pregnancy. Many young Australian women are failing to meet key nutrient targets as nationally recommended.

(Received January 29 2008)

(Accepted June 09 2008)


c1 Corresponding author: Email