Certain lifestyle factors
may improve women's chances of having a healthy pregnancy, according to a new
The researchers analysed
data from more than 5 600 women in England, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand
to pinpoint lifestyle factors at 15 to 20 weeks of gestation that were
associated with complication-free pregnancies.
Helpful lifestyle factors
included eating fruit, having a healthy weight, having lower blood pressure,
having a job, and stopping drug and alcohol abuse, according to the study,
which was published on the bmj.com website.
The findings suggest that
encouraging women to make healthy choices before and during pregnancy "may
increase the likelihood of normal pregnancy outcomes," said Lucy Chappell,
of the Women's Health Academic Centre of King's College London, and colleagues.
Of the women in the study, 61% had an uncomplicated pregnancy.
Fewer women in England and Ireland (58%) had an uncomplicated pregnancy than
those in Australia and New Zealand (63%).
The most common
pregnancy-related problems were babies who were too small for their gestational
age (11%), high blood pressure (8%), preterm birth (4%) and a dangerous spike
in blood pressure called pre-eclampsia (5%).
Among the potentially
dangerous lifestyle factors that women can change (modifiable factors) were
being overweight, having high blood pressure and the misuse of drugs, including
binge drinking, the researchers said.
On the other hand,
modifiable lifestyle factors that reduced the risk of problems were high levels
of fruit consumption in the month before pregnancy and working at 15 weeks into
Lifestyle factors beyond
women's control that increased the risk of problems during pregnancy were
poverty, having high blood pressure before pregnancy while taking birth control
pills, a family history of high blood pressure during pregnancy and bleeding
Although the study
identified risk factors associated with pregnancy complications, it did not
prove cause-and-effect relationships.
The US Office of Disease
Prevention and Health Promotion outlines how to enjoy a healthy pregnancy.