November 22, 2013
Healthy Lifestyles Lead To Uncomplicated Pregnancies
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on Friday revealed that women who maintain a healthy lifestyle before and during pregnancy are more likely to have an uncomplicated pregnancy.
In their report, the researchers outlined several lifestyle choices women could make to increase the chance of a healthy pregnancy, including regular fruit intake, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing blood pressure, stopping drug use and alcohol abuse – as well as being gainfully employed.
“We have always known that a mother's general health is important, but until now we did not know the specific factors that could be associated with a normal pregnancy,” said study author Lucy Chappell, an obstetrics consultant from King's College London.
“Although this is an early study, these findings suggest that by leading a healthy lifestyle both before and during pregnancy – including eating lots of fruit and maintaining a healthy BMI – it could be possible for women to increase the likelihood of experiencing an uncomplicated pregnancy.”
To reach their conclusion, the study researchers tracked over 5,000 first-time mothers in New Zealand, Australia, the UK and Ireland. The team considered participants’ medical histories and dietary information that was gathered through personal exams and surveys. Women in the study also underwent an ultrasound procedure between weeks 19 and 21 of their pregnancy, and blood pressure and other measurements were also monitored. The pregnancy outcomes and infant measurements were taken after the women gave birth.
In addition to finding that personal health and lifestyle choices affect pregnancy outcomes, the study team also found that study volunteers who were gainfully employed at the 15-week mark of their pregnancy were less likely to have complications. The researchers theorized that these women are less likely to behave irresponsibly and their income allowed them to eat more healthily.
“More research needs to be done to explore these associations further but I hope that this research will help inform both public health policy makers and healthcare professionals giving advice to pregnant women and those thinking of having a baby,” Chappell said.
“This exciting research shows that simple steps such as eating well could help more women to have a trouble-free pregnancy, avoiding serious complications such as pre-eclampsia and premature birth, said Jane Brewin, chief executive of the UK pregnancy charity Tommy's, who was not directly involved in the research. “It joins a growing body of evidence that leading a healthy lifestyle before becoming pregnant can be just as important as being healthy during pregnancy.”
“Currently not enough is being done to promote all-round wellbeing for expectant mums and those planning a family, and this study shows that it's important to reach out to women with practical tips and ideas on physical and mental health, to give every woman the best chance of a complication-free pregnancy,” Brewin added.
In an editorial article published by BMJ alongside the study, Marian Knight from the University of Oxford said the next step is to focus on interventions that achieve more desired outcomes for pregnant women.