Making the Case for Preconception Care: Planning and preparation for pregnancy to improve maternal and child health outcomes.London: PHE; 2018

Stephenson J, Heslehurst N, Hall J Before the beginning: nutrition and lifestyle in the preconception period. Lancet. 2018; 391:(10132)1830-1841

Planning for pregnancy

02 May 2019
Volume 27 · Issue 5


The charity Tommy's is launching a new campaign, #AreYouReady?, to improve pre-conception care and information. Deirdre de Barra explains the importance of informed pregnancy planning

An article in The Lancet concluded that:

‘There are strong links between health before pregnancy and maternal and child health outcomes, with consequences that can extend across generations, but awareness of these links is not widespread.’

During pregnancy, women are exposed to a wealth of information and guidance about what they can do to reduce their risks of adverse outcomes. However, in the pre-conception period, this is not the case.

Let's take one woman, Mary. Mary did not find out about how important folic acid was until she told her doctor she was pregnant, which was week 6, and did not see a midwife until week 12. The doctor did not want to worry Mary and so did not tell her that it would have been more effective to start taking folic acid 2 months before stopping contraception, in order to build it up for maximum protection.

Mary's BMI was over 30. After her pregnancy was confirmed, she received information about her weight, as well as extra appointments and tests. Everyone explained to Mary that her weight increased the risk of pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. Mary wished that she had known about this before pregnancy so that she could have tried to lose weight.

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