Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

Symposium on ‘Nutritional adaptation to pregnancy and lactation’

Pregnancy as a time for dietary change?

Annie S. Andersona1 c1

a1 Centre for Public Health Nutrition Research, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Ninewells Medical School, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 9SY, UK


It is thought that nutrition during pregnancy plays a key role in the well-being of the mother and the newborn infant, and further influences health during childhood and adulthood. Pregnancy is a time of increased nutritional requirements, but many of these requirements will be met by adaptive physiological changes that occur during gestation, with little need to alter maternal dietary intake. A modest increment of food which provides 0.8 MJ/d (above prepregnant requirements) during the third trimester is considered adequate to meet the needs of fetal and maternal growth, and to satisfy the small increase in requirements of many macro- and micronutrients. However, requirements for vitamin D and folic acid increase substantially, and should be met primarily by supplementation. Food selection may also be altered to avoid a range of food-borne diseases and toxic constituents. There are a number of psycho-social reasons why pregnancy might be considered a good time for promoting changes in dietary behaviour for the health of the wider family. However, pregnancy may be a bad time to promote dietary change if it is perceived to involve slimming, if nutritional requirements are greatest before pregnancy, or if dietary changes made are harmful. There is little evidence to support educational interventions as successful at changing dietary behaviour during pregnancy. Pregnancy may be best viewed as an opportunity for maintaining good dietary selections and for building knowledge for future action, and should not be seen as the only opportunity for promoting dietary change within the life course.


c1 Corresponding Author: Professor Annie S. Anderson, fax +44 1382 496452, email