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RCOG co-launches new digital tool to help prepare women for pregnancy

News 14 June 2018

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, in partnership with Tommy’s, Public Health England and the UCL Institute for Women’s Health, is delighted to announce the launch of a new digital tool, Planning for Pregnancy.

The innovative tool provides tailored information for women on how they can prepare before conception in order to have a healthy pregnancy. It is endorsed by NHS England, the Institute of Health Visitors and the Royal College of General Practitioners.

The launch coincides with the release of a new survey by Tommy’s which found that women plan more for their summer holiday than they do for pregnancy. A poll of 750 women revealed that 67% of women plan for three or more months for a holiday, while just 20% plan for three or more months for a pregnancy.

The survey also showed that just under 40% of women stopped using contraception the same week they made the decision to have a baby. This leaves little time to make any change that might affect the health of pregnancy and baby, such as taking folic acid, improving diet and achieving a healthy weight.

The digital tool and a national #AreYouReady campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of pre-conception health, and to support women with information and resources. Planning for pregnancy improves the likelihood of a safe and healthy pregnancy and improves the long-term health of the child.

The tool brings women through a questionnaire and uses the answers to provide tailored information on what a woman can do before pregnancy to have a healthy pregnancy and baby. It also provides supportive email follow-up with tips and advice. It also gives helpful information about all topics relevant to conception, including fertility, cervical screening, STIs, vaccinations, mental wellbeing, smoking, drugs and alcohol.

The campaign follows the recent Lancet Series on the importance of diet and lifestyle of both parents before conception.

Parents’ weight, diet and health before conception can have profound implications for the safety of the pregnancy, and the growth, development and long-term health of their children. Actions that would have a positive impact on the health of a pregnancy and future child if taken before stopping contraception would include taking 400mcg of folic acid daily two months before stopping contraception, quitting smoking, maintaining or achieving a healthy weight, adopting healthier eating behaviours, and staying active or becoming physically active before pregnancy.

Professor Lesley Regan, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:

“Nutrition and lifestyle in the preconception period is crucial to having a good pregnancy and birth and we are delighted to be partnering with Tommy’s and UCL on this campaign to deliver tailored advice for women on the key steps they can take before getting pregnant to decrease the risk of complications during pregnancy. In the UK, the high prevalence of obesity means that 1 in 4 pregnant women are overweight or obese. Diet, weight and the body’s metabolism prior to conception impacts on the chances of conceiving naturally, having a good pregnancy and delivery, as well as affecting the health of children in their later life. Focussing on the importance of maintaining a healthy diet and weight prior to conception will not only improve the health of individuals, but also the health and quality of life of future generations.”

Lead author of the Lancet Series and clinical advisor to the Planning for Pregnancy tool, Professor Judith Stephenson, UCL, said:

“The preconception period is a critical time when parental health - including weight and diet - can influence the risk of future chronic disease in children, and we must support families to reduce this risk."

Tommy’s Chief Executive Jane Brewin said:

“Our goal is to prevent avoidable pregnancy loss and improve the safety of the mother and baby during pregnancy. We know that lack of folic acid, smoking, inadequate nutrition, lack of physical activity and having a high BMI are all things that contribute to negative pregnancy outcomes, and it’s almost too late to tackle these after conception. Once women and their partners are pregnant they get a wide range of information from all sorts of sources, but in the pre-conception period, when they are not talking to health professionals about their intentions, it’s much harder to make sure they are informed about things they can do to reduce their risks. This tool has been created to address that gap in information. This is not about guilt or blame, it simply provides the information and support to allow women to make informed decisions.”

Professor Viv Bennett, Chief Nurse and director of maternity and early years at Public Health England, said:

“Good preconception health – how women are in the weeks, months and years leading up to pregnancy – plays a crucial role in the health of women and their babies and on into childhood. We need to provide clear information and support women who want to have a family in the future to start making positive changes to improve their health now - in advance of becoming pregnant, to help give every child the best start in life.”

ENDS

NOTES:

  • The Tommy’s survey was conducted via Survey Monkey in May-June 2018
  • There was a total of 750 responses from women who were pregnant or recently pregnant
  • The Planning for Pregnancy tool is on https://bit.ly/2sZrQ3S

For media enquiries please contact the RCOG press office on 020 7045 6773 or email pressoffice@rcog.org.uk

About the RCOG
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is a medical charity that champions the provision of high quality women’s healthcare in the UK and beyond. It is dedicated to encouraging the study and advancing the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology. It does this through postgraduate medical education and training and the publication of clinical guidelines and reports on aspects of the specialty and service provision.

About Tommy’s
Tommy’s the largest pregnancy and baby charity in the UK. It funds research into pregnancy problems and provides pregnancy health information to parents-to-be. Tommy’s believes it is unacceptable that one in four women lose a baby during pregnancy and birth. With five research centres across the UK investigating the causes of miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth, Tommy’s leads the way in maternal and fetal research in the UK.