Pregnancy is a critical time for the health of women and their babies.
Many women change their lifestyle habits during the time to try to keep healthy. They may stop eating unhealthy food, quit smoking, stop drinking and sleep enough hours.
All these sounds very healthy, and many women believe they can have a healthy pregnancy by taking actions.
However, researchers disagree with this.
A study from University of Queensland claims that changing diet and lifestyle during pregnancy is too late and too little to reduce the risk of major complications, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, stillbirth and pre-term birth.
According to the study, a healthy lifestyle is necessary even before conception.
In their study, the team found that only 10% of women in Australia ate the recommended daily serve of fruits and vegetables during their childbearing years.
This led to increased obesity ratio in women when they became older.
During pregnancy, although women did cut back on smoking and alcohol drinking, they had a bigger BMI, ate less fruit and vegetables and exercised less.
This in turn showed little change in the risk of pregnancy complications.
The researchers emphasized the importance of a healthy lifestyle before conception:
“The evidence overwhelmingly showed healthier pregnancies when women were able to make positive lifestyle changes before conception, such as eating well, being more active or quitting smoking.”
“Women with a lower BMI before conception lowered their risks of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, pre-term birth and stillbirth.
“Higher levels of physical activity before conception resulted in lowered risk of gestational diabetes.
“Also, we know from our own research that women who have a diet high in fruit, vegetables, legumes and nuts before conception have lower rates of gestational diabetes.”
The researchers also said that it is not an individual’s problem, instead, it is the responsibility of the whole society.
“This isn’t about pressuring women at an individual level or making them feel guilty.”
“It’s going to take a huge social shift to tackle the obesity crisis and improve the nation’s eating habits, and to do that we need population-level health initiatives supported by all levels of government.”
“The message that everyone needs to hear, whether they are planning a pregnancy or not, is that women who are active and eat more fruit and vegetables will have a much healthier pregnancy and baby.”
The study is published in The Lancet.
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