Pregnancy is a critical ‘window of opportunity’ to improve the health of the next generation and combat obesity, a new report has claimed
The research, revealed at the Infant And Toddler Forum (ITF) last week, highlighted the emerging evidence that a mother’s weight and nutritional status before, during and between pregnancies can have a long lasting effect on the baby’s health and the risk of disease later in life.
In fact, how and what mothers eat could potentially affect the health of future generations.
The report, informed by a survey of 1,000 mothers and over 150 healthcare professionals, however, revealed confusion over what is considered the correct diet, with 64 per cent of mums welcoming more advice or support relating to their pregnancy.
According to the survey, just under half (46%) of UK mums said they made no changes to their diet after finding out they were pregnant.
‘Pregnancy and pre-conception need to be our new focus,’ says Dr Atul Singhal, Professor of Paediatric Nutrition at the UCL Institute of Child Health, and Chair of the ITF.
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‘Although, the early years are now well-established as critical to influencing health outcomes in later life, and whilst the past 10 years have seen a growing commitment to early years intervention, obesity is still a major public health issue that continues to threaten the health of younger people.’
England is the ninth fattest nation in Europe, and one in four seven to 11-year-olds are overweight or obese.
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Gill Perks, Midwifery Matron, Antenatal and Postnatal Services, NHS, said: ‘This report supports the Department of Health’s mantra of “making every contact count”. In pre-conception and pregnancy we must not miss this opportunity to advise and influence a woman’s health, nutritional and dietary habits and midwives are in an ideal position to support women in this.’
‘The report also calls for action to increase the uptake of recommended vitamins and supplements during pre-conception, pregnancy and breastfeeding. It’s not just about giving information, we need to be able to support women to change behaviour by recognising what works for them and having the healthy conversation.’
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If you want more information, the first factsheet in the new pregnancy series, Healthy Eating in Pregnancy is available to download from the ITF website.
Did you alter your diet when you were pregnant? Let us know below.