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Health behaviours in 131,182 UK women planning pregnancy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Beth McDougall, Kimberley Kavanagh, Judith Stephenson, Lucilla Poston, Angela C. Flynn, Sara L. White

Original languageEnglish
Article number530
JournalBMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Issue number1
PublishedDec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: The Tommy’s Planning for Pregnancy tool and accompanying social media campaign was funded by PHE, Tommy’s and RCOG. Tommy’s also provide salary support for ACF, SLW and LP. Neither PHE, Tommy’s nor RCOG had any role in data analysis or interpretation, nor in the writing of the report or the decision to submit the paper for publication. Publisher Copyright: © 2021, The Author(s). Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors


Background: A woman’s health at the time of conception lays the foundation for a healthy pregnancy and the lifelong health of her child. We investigated the health behaviours of UK women planning pregnancy. Methods: We analysed survey data from the ‘Planning for Pregnancy’ online tool (Tommy’s, UK). We described all women planning pregnancy and compared the frequency of non-adherence to preconception recommendations in women who had already stopped contraception (active planners) and those who had not (non-active planners). Results: One hundred thirty-one thousand one hundred eighty-two women from across the UK were included, of whom 64.8% were actively planning pregnancy. Of the whole cohort, twenty percent were smokers and less than one third took folic acid supplements (31.5%). Forty two percent engaged in less than the recommended 150 min of weekly physical activity and only 53.3% consumed five portions of fruit or vegetables 4 days a week. Smokers were 1.87 times more likely to be active planners than non-smokers (95% CI 1.79–1.94), and women who took folic acid were 7 times more likely to be active planners (95% CI 6.97–7.59) compared to women who did not. Smoking, drug use and lack of folic acid supplementation were common in younger women and those who were underweight. Conclusions: This unique survey of UK women has identified poor adherence to preconception recommendations in those planning pregnancies and supports the need for a greater public health focus on preconception health. This study provides a contemporary basis from which to inform preconception health advice and a benchmark to measure changes over time.

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