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Addressing inequalities and improving maternal and infant outcomes: the potential power of nutritional interventions across the reproductive cycle

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Gina NguyenORCiD, Anna Boath, Dr Nicola HeslehurstORCiD


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© 2023 Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved.Maternal nutrition is essential for optimal health and well-being of women and their infants. This review aims to provide a critical overview of the evidence-base relating to maternal weight, obesity-related health inequalities, and dietary interventions encompassing the reproductive cycle: preconception, pregnancy, postnatal and interpregnancy. We provide an overview of UK data showing that overweight and obesity affects half of UK pregnancies, with increased prevalence among more deprived and minoritised ethnic populations, and with significant health and cost implications. The existing intervention evidence-base primarily focuses on the pregnancy period, where extensive evidence demonstrates the power of interventions to improve maternal diet behaviours, and minimise gestational weight gain and postnatal weight retention. There is a lack of consistency in the intervention evidence-base relating to interventions improving pregnancy health outcomes, although there is evidence of the potential power of the Mediterranean and Low GI diets in improving short- and long-term health of women and their infants. Postnatal interventions focus on weight loss, with some evidence of cost-effectiveness. There is an evidence gap for preconception and interpregnancy interventions. We conclude by identifying that interventions do not address cumulative maternal obesity inequalities and overly focus on individual behaviour change. There is a lack of a joined-up approach for interventions throughout the entire reproductive cycle, with a current focus on specific stages (i.e., pregnancy) in isolation. Moving forward, the potential power of nutritional interventions using a more holistic approach across the different reproductive stages is needed to maximise the benefits on health for women and children.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Nguyen G, Boath A, Heslehurst N

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

Year: 2023

Volume: 82

Issue: 3

Pages: 241-252

Print publication date: 01/09/2023

Online publication date: 02/02/2023

Acceptance date: 02/04/2022

ISSN (print): 0029-6651

ISSN (electronic): 1475-2719

Publisher: Cambridge University Press


DOI: 10.1017/S002966512300006X

PubMed id: 36727523