Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Systematic review of clinical trials on dietary interventions to prevent excessive weight gain during pregnancy among normal weight, overweight and obese women

Ida Tanentsapf1, Berit L Heitmann2 and Amanda RA Adegboye2*

Author affiliations

1 Faculty of Health Sciences, Copenhagen University, Panum Instituttet, Blegdamsvej 3B, 2200, Copenhagen, Denmark

2 Research Unit for Dietary Studies, Institute of Preventive Medicine, Copenhagen University Hospital, Oster Sogade 13, 1357, Copenhagen, Denmark

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2011, 11:81  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-11-81

Published: 26 October 2011



Excessive weight gain during pregnancy and subsequent postpartum weight retention may contribute to the epidemic of obesity among women of childbearing age. Preventing excessive gestational weight gain (GWG) to optimize maternal, fetal and infant wellbeing is therefore of great importance. A number of dietary interventions in this area has been conducted with inconsistent results, which has made it difficult to identify effective strategies to prevent excessive weight gain during pregnancy among normal weight, overweight and obese women. The primary objective of this review was to evaluate the effect of dietary interventions for reducing GWG. The secondary objective was to examine the impact of these interventions on different child and maternal health outcomes.


The PUBMED, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) and the LILACS databases were searched for relevant articles. All published randomized controlled trials (RCT) and quasi-randomized controlled trials (QCT), with concurrent controls, on dietary interventions during pregnancy were considered. Results were presented using relative risk (RR) for categorical data and weighted mean difference (WMD) for continuous data. Data were primarily analyzed with a fixed-effect model and a random-effects model was used in the presence of heterogeneity. No date and language restrictions were applied.


In total, 13 studies were included in this review and 10 trials contributed data on total GWG. Dietary intervention significantly reduced total GWG (n = 1434; WMD = -1.92 kg; 95% CI = -3.65/-0.19; p = 0.03), weight retention at six months postpartum (n = 443; WMD = -1.90 kg; 95% CI = -2.69/-1.12; p < 0.0001) and incidence of cesarean section (n = 609; RR = 0.75; 95% CI = 0.60/0.94; p = 0.013). However, dietary intervention had no significant effect on weight retention at six weeks postpartum, birth weight, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and preterm birth.


Dietary advice during pregnancy appears effective in decreasing total GWG and long-term postpartum weight retention, but so far there is limited evidence for further benefits on infant and maternal health.