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Health in pregnancy

Being healthy is the best start to pregnancy for a woman and child. Preparing for pregnancy can focus attention on health, such as eating a healthy balanced diet or losing excess weight, as well as avoiding risks from smoking, alcohol and drug use. Ensuring the best care for long-term physical and mental health conditions is important for a healthy pregnancy, as well as addressing complex social needs.

Getting the best start in life for children is a UK policy priority, focused on preventing problems and early intervention to improve outcomes. NIHR research evidence into modifiable factors to influence health before, during and after pregnancy is growing and helping to inform policy and practice. 

DOI: 10.3310/themedreview-001598 

Better beginnings front cover

Better Beginnings - Improving health for pregnancy 

This themed review brings together NIHR research on different aspects of health before, during and after pregnancy. It features:

  • 46 published studies
  • 28 ongoing studies or interim results
  • Questions for clinicians, commissioners, public health professionals and others



Number of live births in England and Wales in 2015


Percentage of pregnant women who are overweight or obese

1 in 5

women experience mental health problems during pregnancy or the year after birth

  • Improving women’s health requires a collaborative approach between all stakeholders... to meet the needs of women for pregnancy prevention, planning and preparation, as well as preparation for parenthood. Putting research evidence into guidance and practice can help deliver better health for women and their children.

    Dr Matthew Jolly, National Clinical Director for Maternity & Women’s Health, NHS England

  • The Royal College of Midwives is delighted that the NIHR has published its themed review ‘Better Beginnings’. The report supports midwives to fully understand the evidence that underlies our public health messages to women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy.

    Cathy Warwick CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM)

  • Better Beginnings is a very readable account of high quality NIHR research - it presents evidence which will help both doctors and midwives deliver better care.

    Nigel Simpson, NIHR-CRN National Specialty Lead for Reproductive Health & Childbirth


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