Eating High Fat Diet During Pregnancy Can Increase Risk of Stillbirth

Eating a high-fat diet during pregnancy can increase the risk of stillbirth, according to a new study.Oregon Health & Science University researchers say that data indicates that eating a typical American diet, which is high in fat, decreases blood flow from the mother to the placenta, which is responsible for nourishing the unborn fetus.The study was conducted with the primates Japanese macaque because their placental structure is very similar to that in humans.

Antonio Frias, M.D., principal investigator and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology (perinatology/maternal-fetal medicine) in the OHSU School of Medicine and his colleagues observed 24 pregnant Japanese macaques that either ate a diet that consisted of 32 percent calories from fat or 14 percent calories from fat.

They found that the monkeys that ate the higher fat diets experienced a 38 to 56 percent reduction of blood flow from the uterus to the placenta, regardless of whether the monkeys were obese or slender.  However, the risk of stillbirth was highest among obese monkeys with pre-diabetes.

The study is the first to show exactly how a fatty diet can increase the risk of stillbirth.

Previous studies have demonstrated that nearly all adverse outcomes during pregnancy, from abnormal fetal growth to preterm labor and stillbirth, are in some way associated with an abnormally developed or damaged placenta.

Additionally, maternal obesity has been linked with placental inflammation and risk of stillbirth.

The study was published in the journal Endocrinology.