Document Type



Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Health care sciences and services, Nutrition, Dietetics, Public and environmental health

Publication Details

Early Human Development


Background Maternal nutrition may influence intrauterine fetal development. To date, the relationship between contemporary European dietary guidelines and fetal growth has not been examined.

Aims To develop a novel Periconceptual Nutrition Score (PENS) to assess maternal dietary quality in early pregnancy and examine its relationship with fetal growth.

Study design Women were recruited conveniently at their first clinic visit and completed a supervised four day retrospective diet history. The PENS was developed using European Food Safety Authority recommended dietary intakes for pregnancy. The relationship between PENS and fetal growth was examined.

Subjects Women with a singleton pregnancy.

Outcome measures Birthweight, small for gestational age (SGA), neonatal head circumference.

Results and conclusions Of the 202 women, the mean age was 32.2 ± 5.0 years and 44.6% were nulliparas. The mean PENS was 9.4 ± 3.1. On multivariable regression, there was a positive relationship between the PENS and birthweight (beta = 45.3, 95%CI 14.8–75.9, P = 0.002) and neonatal head circumference (beta = 0.12, 95%CI 0.01–0.23, P = 0.03). Compared with the lowest PENS quartile, the mean birthweight was increased in the highest quartile (Mean difference 328 g, P = 0.02). The incidence of SGA was 16.4% (n = 10/61) in the lowest PENS quartile compared to 6.5% (n = 9/139) in the top three quartiles (P = 0.03). Thus, higher maternal dietary quality was associated with increased intrauterine fetal growth. The PENS is potentially useful in identifying those women before or during pregnancy who may benefit from dietary interventions that may optimise fetal growth. It may also be useful in tracking maternal dietary quality during pregnancy.



Technological University Dublin