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Diet and Exercise During Pregnancy Offers Improved Outcomes at Birth

First Posted: Oct 15, 2014 03:39 AM EDT

A new study has found that following a healthy diet and increasing physical activity during pregnancy offers a range of improved outcomes at birth.

In the latest study, researchers at the University of Adelaide offer healthy eating and exercise advice to pregnant women who are overweight or obese. It is generally believed that healthier eating habits and increased physical activity during pregnancy is linked with differences in weight gain. But, this latest study highlights that during pregnancy the amount of weight gained is not an ideal measure of pregnancy health.

But according to study lead Professor Jodie Dodd, these alterations in diet and physical activity were directly tied to significant improvements in outcomes for babies.

"Women who received dietary and lifestyle advice increased the number of servings they consumed per day of fruits and vegetables, while reducing the percentage of energy in their diet derived from saturated fats. Women were also successful in increasing their physical activity, with about 15-20 minutes of brisk walking on most days of the week," said Professor Dodd.

Studies have earlier revealed a drastic drop in the rate of infants born over 4 kg to women who received diet and lifestyle advice during pregnancy. The researchers now reveal a variety of other benefits for babies that include reduced risk of suffering from moderate to severe respiratory distress syndrome and reduced length of stay at hospital.

According to co-author Dr. Rosalie Grivell, of the University of Robinson Research Institute, nearly 50 percent of the women are overweight or obese during pregnancy. There is not much evidence available on the overall benefits of dietary and lifestyle intervention in women being overweight or obese.

"Our hope is that by following some simple, practical and achievable lifestyle advice, pregnant women can improve their health and the outcomes for their babies. We would, of course, recommend that these lifestyle changes be adopted as much as possible before women become pregnant," said Dr. Grivell.

The study is documented in the journal BMC Medicine.

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