Women in the U.S. Lack Proper Nutrition Before Pregnancy, According to a New Study

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Women are falling behind on nutritional guidelines before pregnancy. Photo: KidStock/Blend Images/Getty Images

President Trump’s budget blueprint, which was released on Thursday, calls for a $150 million cut to the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, which helps states meet nutritional needs for low-income pregnant and postpartum women, Reuters reports. However, a new study found that many women in the U.S. are already lacking adequate nutrition pre-pregnancy. Scientists argue that societal and political changes are needed to help these women make healthier dietary choices.

Published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the study doesn’t mention the WIC program, but it does highlight the need for more nutritional guidance for women of reproductive age. Scientists from the University of Pittsburgh School of Health Sciences found that by and large, women in the U.S. aren’t achieving the dietary recommendations outlined by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The study authors note that healthy maternal diets have been linked to reduced risks of preeclampsia, preterm birth, fetal growth restriction, and maternal obesity.

The team of scientists analyzed data from 7,511 women between 6 and 14 weeks pregnant who were enrolled in the Nulliparous Pregnancy Outcomes Study: Monitoring Mothers to Be. The women filled out questionnaires about their dietary habits for the three months around conception, and their diets were measured using the Healthy Eating Index–2010, which looks at diet quality, intake of refined grains, salt, and empty calories, intake of key food groups, and more.

The study found that women’s Healthy Eating Index–2010 scores increased with their education levels, but the increases was smaller among Hispanic and black women. Yet, for all groups, the scientists determined that the average scores were below recommendations, and that the top sources of energy were sugar-sweetened beverages, grain desserts, and pasta dishes. Furthermore, 34 percent of energy was consumed from empty calories, and the primary sources of iron, vitamin C, and folate were enriched breads and juices.

Despite the proven need for better nutritional assistance for pregnant women, Trump’s budget plan would allocate $6.2 billion to WIC’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program — which is $150 million less than was in the 2016 fiscal budget. Under President Barack Obama, the program’s budget was also slashed $273 million between fiscal years 2015 and 2016.

Women in the U.S. Lack Proper Nutrition Before Pregnancy