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Encouraging pregnant women's lifestyle choices 'improves outcomes'

Targeted interventions designed to improve pregnant women’s lifestyle choices appear to have a positive effect on pregnancy outcomes, a new report suggests.

Lifestyle factors such as cutting alcohol and drugs intake, eating fruit and vegetables and maintaining a healthy weight have been identified by researchers on as increasing the likelihood of a normal pregnancy.

Reducing blood pressure and being in paid employment during pregnancy were also cited as positive factors.

Further research is needed to ascertain whether these associations have causal importance, but the study implies that targeted interventions before and during pregnancy could be beneficial.

Previous studies have looked at the adverse impact of risk factors in pregnancy but little research has focused on factors associated with healthy pregnancies.

With that in mind, the international research team set out to identify potentially changeable factors for women around 15-20 weeks pregnant that may be linked to a subsequently uncomplicated pregnancy.

A total of 5,628 healthy women pregnant for the first time - 3,196 from Australia and New Zealand and 2,432 from the UK and Ireland - were recruited to the Screening for Pregnancy Endpoints study between November 2004 and August 2008.

The researchers defined uncomplicated pregnancy as a “normotensive pregnancy, delivered at more than 37 weeks resulting in a live born baby who was not small for gestational age and did not have any other significant pregnancy complications”.

A total of 3,452, which amounted to around six out of 10 women (61%), had an uncomplicated pregnancy.

The figures revealed a smaller proportion of women in the UK and Ireland had an uncomplicated pregnancy (58%) than in Australasia (63%).

Gestational hypertension (8%) and pre-eclampsia (5%) were the most common reason for a complicated pregnancy in the mother.

In babies, the most common reasons were being small for gestational age (11%) and spontaneous preterm birth (4%).

The authors of the study pointed out that there are already lifestyle recommendations in place for non-hypertensive women to have a healthy diet and maintain an optimal blood pressure by exercising, losing weight, cutting salt intake and drinking less alcohol.

“Our study suggests that adoption of these choices seems to be beneficial in determining uncomplicated pregnancy,” they concluded.

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