Study: Increasing number of women drink alcohol and smoke while trying to get pregnant

One in five women have been found to smoke with more than half drinking alcohol while actively trying to conceive.

New research has uncovered some ‘troubling trends’ among women who are trying to conceive.

The research, conducted by leading pregnancy charity Tommy’s, found that certain lifestyle choices of these women such as smoking, consuming alcohol and caffeine as well as a lack of exercise, could be negatively affecting the chances of pregnancy.

The disturbing trend has been found to be more common among women below the age of 25.

On the whole, the study points to a general lack of awareness around the dangers of these activities while trying for a baby.

Major findings

Researchers analysed data on more than 130,000 women in the UK who were asked questions about maternal health.

They found 54 percent of women planning a pregnancy drank alcohol, 20 per cent smoked cigarettes and 3.7 per cent said they used recreational drugs.

Only half the women polled said they ate their five-a-day fruit and veg, and even fewer exercised for the recommended 150 minutes a week.

Amina Hatia, a midwife who works for Tommy’s, said:

Most people make changes to look after their health and wellbeing once they know they’re expecting, but many don’t realise that acting even earlier can really help get the body ready for pregnancy. It’s not just about cutting out risky things like caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes. Positive steps like keeping active and eating a balanced diet can also make a big difference.

Role of NHS

Campaigners at Tommy’s noted there are no proper services in the NHS which help individuals get their bodies ready for pregnancy.

According to the professionals, when someone manages to get pregnant and accesses antenatal care they may have left it ‘too late’ to make key lifestyle changes.

The report, published in BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth journal, recommended more awareness creation to safeguard pregnancy health.

Dr Angela Flynn, one of the report’s authors, said:

...our study suggests it’s not well known in the UK that people can take steps before they even start trying to increase their chances of having a safe pregnancy and a healthy’s worrying that awareness and behaviours haven’t really improved.

Last month the World Health Organisation called for all women of child-bearing age to be banned from drinking alcohol.

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