How to Have a Healthy Pregnancy

Eating fruit and avoiding drugs among best ways to have uncomplicated pregnancy according to study

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Women have all sorts of decisions to make about their behavior during the months that they are pregnant. Some of their decisions can boost the likelihood of a healthier pregnancy.

A recent study identified the factors linked to having a pregnancy without complications in healthy women.

Two factors that increased the likelihood of an uncomplicated pregnancy were eating fruit three times a day and having a paid job.

Meanwhile, women were less likely to avoid complications if they used illegal drugs in the first trimester, were overweight or had high blood pressure.

These were the factors that women may have at least some control over when it comes to affecting their likelihood of a healthy pregnancy without complications.

"Attend all prenatal visits."

This study, led by Lucy C. Chappell, a clinical senior lecturer in maternal and fetal medicine at King's College London in the United Kingdom, looked at what factors contributed to having a healthy pregnancy without complications.

The researchers tracked 5,628 healthy women who were pregnant with their first child and were not carrying multiples. The women came from New Zealand, Australia, England and Ireland.

The researchers compared the characteristics of the women to see what was associated with giving birth at full term (later than 37 weeks of pregnancy) without pregnancy complications.

A pregnancy without complications meant the women had normal blood pressure when pregnant and giving birth, did not give birth to a child that was underweight for the pregnancy week when it was born and experienced no other known problems.

Out of the total group of women, 61 percent had an uncomplicated pregnancy. The researchers identified several factors that affected the likelihood of complications.

Women who had fruit at least three times a day during their pregnancies were a little more likely — about 9 percent more likely — to have a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy.

In addition, women with paid employment were just barely more likely to have a healthy pregnancy.

For each additional eight hours of work each week that they were employed, women were 2 percent more likely to have an uncomplicated pregnancy.

Meanwhile, women with a higher weight, misuse of drugs early in the pregnancy or higher blood pressure were more likely to have complications.

Women with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, which is considered obese, were 26 percent less likely to have an uncomplicated pregnancy.

BMI is a ratio of a person's height to weight and is used to determine if a person is a healthy weight. Women with a BMI between 25 and 29.9, which is considered overweight, were 13 percent less likely to have an uncomplicated pregnancy.

Women who used marijuana, cocaine/crack, amphetamines, methamphetamines, opiates, hallucinogens or excessive alcohol (at least 6 units in one sitting) were 10 percent less likely to have a healthy pregnancy without complications.

Then, for each 5 mm Hg increase in a woman's blood pressure, she was 8 percent less likely (for diastolic, or bottom number) or 5 percent less likely (for systolic, or top number) to have an uncomplicated pregnancy.

The researchers also identified several factors among women that made it less likely they would have a pregnancy without complications, but these were factors that women cannot change.

These included having low socioeconomic status, having a family history of high blood pressure complications in pregnancy, having vaginal bleeding during pregnancy and having a history of high blood pressure with birth control pills.

Although these are not factors women can change, it is helpful for them to be aware of the increased risk of complications so they can discuss any concerns with their care provider.

"The 10 months of a pregnancy – yes, 10 months, not nine as commonly thought – is a journey that we all hope ends with a healthy baby and a healthy mom," said Andre Hall, MD, an OBGYN at Birth and Women's Care, PA in Fayetteville, NC.

"While no guarantees can be made for the outcome of a pregnancy, there are some common sense things that a mom can do to increase the chances of having a successful pregnancy," said Dr. Hall, who was not associated with this study.

"Among these are eating healthy to include regular use of fruits," he said. "In addition, recreational drug usage decreases the chance of having a healthy baby and hence should be avoided."

Dr. Hall added that it's important to maintain "a healthy weight by not succumbing tempting foods also improves healthy outcomes. These simple but important steps can at times be the difference between a healthy baby and one with challenges," he said.

This study was published November 21 in the journal BMJ. The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest.

This research was funded by the New Enterprise Research Fund, the Foundation for Research Science and Technology, the Health Research Council, the Evelyn Bond Fund, the Auckland District Health Board Charitable Trust, the Premier’s Science and Research Fund and the South Australian Government.

Additional funding came from Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Charity, Tommy’s Charity, the UK National Health Services, the University of Manchester Proof of Concept Funding, the National Institute for Health Research, Health Research Board in Ireland and the Manchester Biomedical Research Centre.

Review Date: 
November 21, 2013
Last Updated:
December 30, 2013