Your health:

Lifestyle support vital in pregnancy

Pregnant women must be some of the most heavily-leafleted people in the country! I've kept most of mine - well over a dozen each time - for interest and posterity. I actually did find them useful and think they're a central part of maternity care.

However, they made me nervous on occasion, such as the run-up to my 20 week anomaly scan. At least afterwards it was a relief to look at the list, and think "He probably hasn't got z, y, or z".

But if I'd been obese, or a smoker, or didn't want to breastfeed, it might have been a different story.

New patient information has just been released by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists on the risk of having a small baby, that is, in the lightest 10% of babies.

Sometimes this size is perfectly healthy, but other babies may have experienced growth restriction in the womb and be at risk of stillbirth, death as a newborn, or serious illness.

Many of the causes are unavoidable, but as is usually the case, lifestyle factors are thought to play a role: smoking, drug use, eating badly, and in this case over-exercising rather than under-exercising.

"The guidance emphasises the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy in order to help reduce the risk of having a growth restricted baby," say the leaflet's authors.

In my experience midwives do their very best to support this sort of lifestyle change, but often the services they can provide are limited by lack of time and funding. The new information states that women who are at an increased risk of having a growth restricted baby will be offered extra monitoring throughout pregnancy.

I just hope the resources are available so midwives are able to follow these guidelines in practice.

by Kate Richards

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