By Roberta Attanasio
Too many times the medical field views pregnancy in terms of risks leading to potential problems for the mother, the baby, or both. Does it have to be so? Researchers from the UK, Ireland and New Zealand thought this may not be the case and shifted the focus of their research on pregnancy, from abnormality to normality. They carried out a study with the aim of highlighting factors that could be changed before pregnancy and, therefore, increase the likelihood of a normal outcome.
Results from their study identified lifestyle factors either beneficial or detrimental for a normal pregnancy.
Beneficial factors – factors that increased the likelihood of an uncomplicated pregnancy – were high fruit intake in the month before pregnancy and being in paid employment 15 weeks into pregnancy.
Detrimental factors – factors that reduced the likelihood of an uncomplicated pregnancy – were increasing body mass index, increasing blood pressure and misuse of drugs (including binge drinking) in the first trimester. Importantly, these are all factors amenable to improvement.
The study, entitled “Exploration and confirmation of factors associated with uncomplicated pregnancy in nulliparous women: prospective cohort study“ (published in the British Medical Journal on November 21, 2013) is based on a group of 5,628 healthy women with singleton births (and no previous pregnancies) enrolled in the Screening for Pregnancy Endpoints study between November 2004 and August 2008 (3196 from Australia and New Zealand and 2432 from the UK and Ireland).
According to the researchers (and to the author of an accompanying editorial) the most important next steps are not only to shift the focus of research from abnormality to normality, but also replicate their research approach, show a clear causal relationship between the identified factors and the effects on the outcome of pregnancy, and develop a robust base to guide interventions that can improve the outcome of pregnancies.