Can Eating Certain Foods Reduce the Risk of Miscarriage?
Let’s make one thing very clear: If you’ve suffered a miscarriage, it is not your fault. About 50 percent of miscarriages occur due to chromosomal abnormalities, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Typically, these chromosomal abnormalities are inevitable — and when other factors cause the miscarriage, they’re also typically far outside a person’s control (some other causes of miscarriage include uterine abnormalities or chronic health conditions).
If you’ve experienced a miscarriage, it wasn’t because you drank coffee or exercised intensely or traveled, or had a glass of wine before you were pregnant. You are not to blame.
With that being said, recent research has suggested a lifestyle factor that may be able to reduce miscarriage risk, and while these findings are preliminary, they may be worth considering.
Which foods can help reduce a person's miscarriage risk?
Researchers at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom reviewed previous research to learn more about the link between diet and miscarriage risk…and based on these findings, which were published in Fertility & Sterility, the link may be stronger than we expected.
The researchers combed through data from other studies and found outcomes to suggest that a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, dairy, grains, seafood, and eggs could reduce a person’s miscarriage risk. As for diets rich in red meat, white meat, fat and oil, and sugar substitutes — the link was unclear. However, the study’s authors found reasons to suggest that a diet with lots of processed foods or inflammation-causing foods in may increase miscarriage risk.
“There are many known causes of miscarriage, including embryo aneuploidy and endometrial infection. Yet nearly 50% of early pregnancy losses remain unexplained,” the study’s authors write in the paper. “In the absence of an identifiable cause, couples often turn to clinicians for guidance on ways to optimize their health and reduce the risk of further miscarriages. Although lifestyle choices are not usually considered to be a direct cause leading to pregnancy loss, there is a growing body of evidence attesting to the role of peri-conceptual health in determining obstetric and fetal outcomes. It is thought that this may be influenced by modifiable lifestyle choices such as diet, smoking, and alcohol intake.”
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The study’s authors go on to add that nutrition is very much an area of interest in biological research, and there’s reason to believe that nutrition could support reproductive health. With that being said, at this time there is no concrete evidence that nutritional factors could really affect a person’s miscarriage risk.
“Advice on diet is one of the most-discussed subjects for us when talking with pregnant women and birthing people. We know that baby loss is very rarely the result of someone’s lifestyle choices, but many people want to know how to be as healthy as possible during pregnancy. Following a healthy diet, taking supplements like Vitamin D and folic acid, exercising, and trying to lower stress are all things people can try to do, but there’s been a lack of clear evidence on the links between diet choices and miscarriage,” says midwife Juliet Ward in a news release for these findings. “Given this lack of evidence, there aren’t any evidence-based guidelines outlining dietary advice for women and birthing people or their partners – something the findings of this review suggest could make a real impact in helping people reduce their risk.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen research that points to a potential link between lifestyle factors and reproductive outcomes. Some experts are curious about inflammation’s role in reproductive health. There are certain nutrients that may be able to boost fertility. There’s even evidence to suggest that a certain popular diet may help people optimize their IVF cycles. With all this information in mind, it’s not totally out of left field to think nutrition could potentially play a role in helping someone boost their odds of getting — and staying — pregnant.
But at the same time, the guidelines and rules and information aimed at people who are trying to conceive are, quite frankly, overwhelming. If this research — which is quite preliminary and doesn’t prove that there’s a link between nutrition and miscarriage risk — just adds to your mental load….feel free to let it go. If you’d like to adopt some of the ideas it suggests though? Well, eating more nutrient-dense foods is never a bad idea!
But remember this: If you’ve miscarried, it’s not because you didn’t eat enough vegetables.
Zara Hanawalt is a freelance journalist and mom of twins. She's written for outlets like Parents, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Motherly, and many others. In her (admittedly limited!) free time, she enjoys cooking, reading, trying new restaurants, and traveling with her family.