Understanding the health of women planning a pregnancy

Data collected from Tommy’s online pregnancy planning tool has provided our researchers with a unique opportunity to understand the health of women before they conceive. This could lead to women being provided with more tailored information to help them have a healthy pregnancy.
  • Authors list

    Dr Sara White, Dr Angela Flynn, Professor Lucilla Poston, Dr Kim Kavanagh, Beth McDougall, Dr Judith Stephenson

    Start date: 2019
    End date: 2020

  • Research centre

  • Research status

    Completed projects

This project took place at our London centre which operated between 1995 and 2021.

Why do we need this research?

A mother’s health during pregnancy plays an important role in the health of her baby. But researchers also suspect that a woman’s health before pregnancy may affect her child’s health. However, we don’t know enough about the health of women planning to get pregnant

By finding out more, we could help make sure women are provided with better information about how they might need to improve their health before trying for a baby. This would increase the chances of them having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

What happened in this project?

Tommy’s recently launched an online ‘Planning for Pregnancy’ tool to give women information about how to have a healthy pregnancy. Women are asked to give information about their current health, including things like their age, weight and height, whether they drink alcohol or use drugs, and if they had complications in a previous pregnancy.

Between 25,000 and 40,000 women are using the tool every month and the data collected provides our researchers with a unique and valuable insight into the health of women in the UK who are hoping to get pregnant. By looking at the responses of 130,000 women, the team found that less than half of the women who had stopped contraception and were actively planning a pregnancy were taking folic acid supplements. They also found that around 1 in 5 of the women who were actively planning a pregnancy were smoking. These behaviours were particularly prevalent in 18–24 year old women.

What difference will this project make?

Our researchers found that a large proportion of women had areas in which their health and behaviours could be improved when they were trying for a baby. This has shown that there is a need for more tailored education and resources for women who are trying to get pregnant, which should focus in particular on the importance of taking folic acid supplements and of giving up smoking. 

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