21 Jun 2018 Guest blog: Better beginnings for the next generation means talking to people about health before conception
Deirdre de Barra is the Head of Information at Tommy’s – a registered charity which funds research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth, and provide pregnancy health information to parents.
Last week at Tommy’s we launched a free digital tool called Planning for Pregnancy to give women all the information they need to know before they get pregnant.
Although the tool covers a multitude of helpful topics, such as vaccinations, STIs and caffeine, one big priority for us was reaching women earlier with information about how weight, diet and health before pregnancy can profoundly affect the safety of pregnancy and the lifetime health of their baby.
Getting to women early is important because by the time women get pregnant it is almost too late to do anything that might reduce the risks[i] linked to being overweight or obese during pregnancy:
- the increased risk of pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes (both potentially dangerous conditions for mother and child)
- the matter of less choice on where to give birth as women are more likely to need an instrumental delivery
- the increased likelihood of the child having a high BMI and ill-health in future.
The prevalence is growing:
- In England in 2013 over 50% of women aged 25–34 were overweight or obese.
- This is predicted to reach 70% by 2034 with the cost of antenatal care increasing by 5-fold.
We hope that getting information, tips and resources to women earlier might persuade some to change their behaviour in time, increasing activity and making healthy choices that might result in reducing their BMI by a few points and improving their nutritional status before they get pregnant.
The tool is being launched this week, in partnership with RCOG, PHE and the UCL Institute for Women’s Health, with a national #AreYouReady campaign.
It brings women through a questionnaire about their lifestyle and then uses their answers to provide tailored information on what they can do before pregnancy to have a healthy pregnancy and baby. It also provides supportive email follow-up with tips and advice.
Actions that would have a positive impact on the health of a pregnancy and future child if taken before stopping contraception would be:
- taking 400mcg of folic acid dailyfrom two months before stopping contraception
- quitting smoking
- maintaining or achieving a healthy weight (BMI)
- adopting healthier eating behaviours
- staying active or becoming physically active before pregnancy
- speaking to a GP if taking medication for a mental or physical condition.
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[i]NIHR 2017 Better Beginnings: Improving health for pregnancy
Davies, S.C. “Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer, 2014, The Health of the 51%: Women” London: Department of Health (2015).
Galtier-Dereure F, Boegner-Lemoine C, Bringer J.(2000) Obesity and pregnancy: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition ;71
National institute for Health and Care Excellence (2010) Public Health Guidelines 27: Weight management before, during and after pregnancy.