Women may experience complications during pregnancy, which can range from anemia and urinary tract infections (UTIs), to more serious conditions, such as preeclampsia and preterm birth.
But a collaboration of investigators from the UK, Ireland and New Zealand say that by changing certain lifestyle factors, such as increasing fruit intake before pregnancy and maintaining a healthy weight, pregnant women may “increase their likelihood of normal pregnancy outcomes.”
To reach their findings, Medical News Today reported that the investigators analysed 5,628 healthy women with singleton births who had no previous pregnancies.
The researchers analysed the women from 15-20 weeks’ gestation in order to identify factors throughout their pregnancies that may be linked to reduced risk of complications.
Of all women, 61% (3,452) had an uncomplicated pregnancy. Women in the UK and Ireland had the lowest proportion of uncomplicated pregnancies at 58%.
Common complications & causes
The most common reasons for complicated pregnancies in women were babies being small for gestational age (11%), followed by gestational hypertension (8%), preeclampsia (5%) and spontaneous preterm birth (4%).
The investigators found the factors that appeared detrimental to women and caused them to experience pregnancy complications were increasing body mass index (BMI), high blood pressure and misuse of drugs (including binge drinking) within the first trimester.
Recommended lifestyle changes
However, the likelihood of pregnancy complications appeared to reduce for women who had high fruit intake the month before becoming pregnant and who were in paid employment 15 weeks into pregnancy.
The researchers add that they did identify risk factors for pregnancy complications that could not be altered. These were high blood pressure prior to pregnancy as a result of contraceptive pills, family history of high blood pressure during pregnancy, and bleeding during pregnancy.
Improvable factors associated with uncomplicated pregnancy include:
- Optimizing weight through a healthy diet
- cardiovascular fitness
- cessation of illicit drug use
In addition, interventions to reduce blood pressure ‘could be effective’. These include carrying out regular physical exercise, weight reduction, reducing salt intake and alcohol consumption and following a healthy diet.
The researchers noted that the study suggests adoption of these choices “seems to be beneficial in determining subsequent uncomplicated pregnancy.”