A leading public health professor in Australia on Tuesday called for national action to improve women’s health and reduce the risks associated with pregnancy.
Gita Mishra, researcher at the University of Queensland’s School of Public Health, warned that changing diets and lifestyles during a pregnancy is “too little too late” and can lead to major complications.
“The evidence overwhelmingly showed healthier pregnancies when women were able to make positive lifestyle changes before conception, such as eating well, being more active or quitting smoking.
“Women with a lower body mass index before conception lowered their risks of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, pre-term birth and stillbirth,’’ Mishra said.
While increased exercise before conception resulted in a lower risk of contracting gestational diabetes, Mishra stressed that a diet high in fruit, vegetables, legumes and nuts is also extremely important for a healthy pregnancy.
Mishra’s research comes as part of a larger international series for the Lancet Journal which showed that only 10 per cent of Australian women consume the recommended daily serve of fruit and vegetables during key childbearing years.
On current statistics, the obesity rate for women in Australia aged 18 to 23 is 27 per cent, with the rate increasing to 42 per cent for women aged between 36 to 40.
“This isn’t about pressuring women at an individual level or making them feel guilty.
“It’s going to take a huge social shift to tackle the obesity crisis and improve the nation’s eating habits, and to do that we need population-level health initiatives supported by all levels of government,’’ she said.
According to Mishra, there is a need for education and intervention programmes.