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A diet rich in certain foods may help protect against miscarriage, new research says. Here’s what to eat—and avoid—if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive

Fortune June 29, 2023


A diet rich in certain foods may help protect against miscarriage, new research says. Here’s what to eat—and avoid—if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive

A nutritious, well-rounded diet may lower the risk of miscarriage, new research suggests.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom reviewed 20 studies involving more than 65,000 women and their eating habits three months before and after conceiving.

Among their findings, published this month in the journal Fertility and Sterility:

  • High fruit intake may reduce miscarriage risk by 61%.
  • High vegetable intake may reduce miscarriage risk by 41%.
  • High dairy intake may reduce miscarriage risk by 37%.
  • High grain intake may reduce miscarriage risk by 33%.
  • High seafood intake may reduce miscarriage risk by 19%.
  • High egg intake may reduce miscarriage risk by 19%.

Researchers could not find an association between lower or higher miscarriage risk and predefined diets like the Mediterranean diet or the fertility diet. But diets packed with foods rich in antioxidants like almonds, beef, and tomatoes, and low in inflammatory foods like cookies, crackers, cereal, pastries, and sodas, may reduce the risk of miscarriage, they concluded. 

What’s more, diets high in inflammatory processed foods were shown to be associated with double the risk of miscarriage.


What causes miscarriage?

Miscarriages, also known as spontaneous abortions, are common. Around a third of pregnancies end in miscarriage—sometimes before a person even knows they’re pregnant, according to the nonprofit March of Dimes, which advocates for the health of moms and babies.

The following factors can cause miscarriages, according to Planned Parenthood:

  • Genetic abnormalities in the fetus
  • A very severe infection
  • A major injury
  • Abnormalities in the uterus (in the case of late miscarriages, or those that occur after three months)

Having certain chronic illnesses like diabetes and having more than two miscarriages in a row raise your risk as well.

The reasons behind about half of early pregnancy losses remain unknown, however, according to Yealin Chung, the study’s lead author and a researcher at the university’s Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research.

“There’s a growing body of evidence to show that lifestyle changes—including changes to diet, stopping smoking, and not drinking alcohol—before conceiving and in your pregnancy’s early stages may have an impact,” she said in a news release on the report.

While miscarriage is “very rarely the result of someone’s lifestyle choices,” many pregnant people seek to educate themselves on diet and lifestyle choices that can give their baby the best chance at a happy, healthy start to life, Juliette Ward, midwife at Tommy’s, said in the release.

Along those lines, the following advice is usually given to those who are pregnant:

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Take supplements recommended by your provider like vitamin D and folic acid.
  • Exercise regularly (with your provider’s permission).
  • Try to keep your stress levels low.

More research, however, is needed to determine if more specific advice can be given to pregnant people to prevent miscarriage—perhaps to avoid a certain category of foods or a type of diet altogether, experts say.

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