While good nutrition is a key consideration for women who are pregnant, the quality of their diet tends to decline during the prenatal period. To understand how diet evolves over every trimester, the team led by Anne-Sophie Morisset, professor at the École de nutrition at Université Laval, recruited 79 pregnant women to assess their nutritional intake. Three times in each trimester, participants were randomly asked to fill out an online record of everything they had eaten in the past 24 hours. The data were then analyzed and compared with public health recommendations. Surprisingly, energy intake remained similar in each trimester, whereas Health Canada recommends consuming more calories in the second and third trimesters. To better understand the context, the researchers are now exploring several avenues, including metabolic hormones.

In 104 pregnant women, the experts observed that those who had a higher quality diet in the first trimester had better metabolic parameters: less subcutaneous fat and better insulin resistance. The preliminary results also seem to show that, despite a decline in food quality over the trimesters, the women were motivated to eat a healthier diet from the time they found out they were pregnant. In fact, the quality of food is higher in the first trimester than before pregnancy.

The first few weeks of pregnancy may prove to be an effective window of opportunity to promote healthy eating. Giving pregnant women the tools they need early on could have a positive effect on their metabolism and reduce their risk of gestational diabetes. Better nutrition could also have a positive influence on weight gain during pregnancy. In Québec, half of pregnant women gain too much weight, which can trigger a number risks for themselves and their unborn children.