While most of us know to start taking some form of folic acid supplement in the months leading up to trying for a baby, beyond that it’s pretty much business as usual until you get that positive test – and then you ban the booze, smoking, soft cheese, cold meats etc…
However a new study published in The Lancet says woman are waiting until it’s too late to make changes to their diet and it can have a negative impact on their child’s long-term health.
Not only that, it found that the diet and weight of both the mother and father in the years leading up to conception plays a part.
Looking at women aged 18 to 42, the study concluded that only 10 per cent of Australian women ate what they should and that “poor nutrition and obesity are rife among women of reproductive age”, reports ABC.
The study also found that women who lowered their weight before conception reduced their risk of suffering from complications including pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, pre-term birth and stillbirth.
“We need to consider the time taken to reach health or lifestyle objectives well before conception,” says Prof Mishra, deputy head of UQ’s School of Public Health and one of the authors on the report.
“For instance, taking folic acid tablets is a relatively easy step to take, once women have the knowledge and means to do this, whereas reaching a healthy body weight may require a far longer period over months or years.”
The study found that the father’s weight before conception was also a factor influencing the child’s future health, reports SBS.
“A father’s obesity has been shown to be associated with impaired fertility and has been shown to be linked with increased risk of chronic disease in offspring,” adds Prof Mishra.
“I think that everyone should be encourage to adopt a healthy lifestyle during adolescence – since this is a time when poor health behaviours are adopted. Since not all pregnancies are planned, it is best to adopt a healthy lifestyle as early as possible.”
Professor Mishra has also called for our public health system to place more of a focus on pre-conception health.