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Mums-to-be must improve lifestyle habits

Friday February 13th, 2009

By Jane Collingwood

Very few women follow healthy lifestyle recommendations before they get pregnant, researchers warned today.

Professor Hazel Inskip and colleagues at Southampton University, UK, looked at lifestyle factors such as diet, smoking and exercise among women planning a pregnancy.

They analysed figures on 12,445 women aged 20-34 years, of whom 238 became pregnant soon after being interviewed. These women "were only marginally more likely to comply with recommendations", say the researchers on the website of the British Medical Journal.

Only 2.9 per cent were taking folic acid supplements and drinking four or less units of alcohol a week. Smoking rates were only five per cent lower - 26 per cent compared with 31 per cent of those who did not become pregnant.

Both groups were equally likely to eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day (53 per cent), but women who became pregnant were less likely to have taken any strenuous exercise in the past three months (57 per cent versus 64 per cent).

The experts conclude: "Only a small proportion of women planning a pregnancy follow the recommendations for nutrition and lifestyle."

They call for greater publicity of the recommendations for women planning a pregnancy, but also among women of childbearing age generally as pregnancies are often unplanned.

In an editorial, Dr Camilla Bille and colleagues from the University of Southern Denmark urge governments to reconsider public health campaigns aimed at improving conditions for the developing foetus.

"Men should also be targeted because their lifestyles affect the health of their offspring," they add.

Inskip, H. M. et al. Women's compliance with nutrition and lifestyle recommendations before pregnancy: general population cohort study. The British Medical Journal, 2009;338:b481.

Tags: Childbirth and Pregnancy | Europe | Nutrition & Healthy Eating | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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