Half of women trying or planning for a baby drink alcohol and don’t exercise enough, a study reveals.
Research has found ‘troubling trends’ in the lifestyles of women who want to conceive while continuing to smoke, drink and not eat enough fruit and vegetables.
Scientists analysed data on more than 130,000 women in the UK who were asked questions about maternal health. They found 54 per cent of women planning a pregnancy drank alcohol, 20 per cent smoked cigarettes and 3.7 per cent said they used recreational drugs.
Only half the women in the study ate their five-a-day fruit and veg, and even fewer exercised for the recommended 150 minutes a week. Just 31 per cent took folic acid supplements – despite plentiful evidence that they improve pregnancy health.
Scientists analysed data on more than 130,000 women in the UK who were asked questions about maternal health. They found 54 per cent of women planning a pregnancy drank alcohol, 20 per cent smoked cigarettes and 3.7 per cent said they used recreational drugs (file image)
The most concerning trends were recorded in women under 25. The data was collected through pregnancy charity Tommy’s by King’s College London. The charity is calling for a UK preconception health strategy to raise awareness and provide targeted services for women preparing for a pregnancy.
Troubling trend for under-25s
Research author Dr Angela Flynn said: ‘Every parent wants to give their children the best start in life, but our study suggests it’s not well known in the UK that people can take steps before they even start trying to increase their chances of having a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby.
‘Despite lots of evidence that folic acid supplements improve pregnancy health, few people we studied were taking them when trying for a baby.
‘The road to parenthood isn’t always straightforward so it’s vital to let people know how they can prepare themselves.’
The findings were published in the journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. Tommy’s midwife Amina Hatia said: ‘Most people make changes to look after their health and wellbeing once they know they’re expecting, but many don’t realise that acting even earlier can really help get the body ready for pregnancy.
‘It’s not just about cutting out risky things like caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes. Positive steps like keeping active and eating a balanced diet can also make a big difference.’
Last month the World Health Organisation went as far as to call for all women of child-bearing age to be banned from drinking alcohol.