BACKGROUND: Maternal nutrition status (e.g. dietary/nutrient intake) during pregnancy has been associated with pregnancy outcomes including birth weight, infant survival and metabolic health of the offspring during later life. During the past few years, maternal dietary intake, at least three months before conception, has been shown to affect pregnancy outcomes also. However, literature investigating this link is still scarce. The studies that have looked at preconception dietary intake in relation to pregnancy outcome were either animal studies, had small sample sizes or focused on only selected macronutrient intake rather than complete (macro)nutrient composition or dietary intakes (e.g. food groups). Therefore, we aim to investigate the association between preconception diet and pregnancy outcomes in a linked birth cohort. The main objective of this manuscript is to describe the methodology of establishing this birth cohort and to describe both the characteristics of the study population included as well as the representativeness in terms of dietary intake.
METHODS: We created the birth cohort by linking two existing databases; a large population-based cohort study in the Netherlands (The Lifelines Cohort study) and the Dutch national birth registry (Perined), through a 'trusted third party'. The birth cohort contains information on maternal dietary intake during preconception as well as pregnancy outcomes.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: In the Lifelines Cohort study, 3,418 pregnancies were available for linking with Perined. In total, 2,368 pregnancies (86.9%) were linked with Perined, resulting in the birth cohort. With this linked cohort we are able to provide insights on the associations between dietary intake before conception and pregnancy outcomes. Such data could potentially improve nutritional care for women of childbearing age. Lifestyle changes in the period preceding pregnancy may be most effective in improving pregnancy outcomes. A focus on this window of opportunity may provide both sufficient time, as well as a period when women are potentially motivated to adopt health optimizing behaviours.