Health behaviours in 131,182 UK women planning pregnancy

McDougall, Beth and Kavanagh, Kimberley and Stephenson, Judith and Poston, Lucilla and Flynn, Angela C. and White, Sarah L. (2021) Health behaviours in 131,182 UK women planning pregnancy. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 21. 530. ISSN 1471-2393 (

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Background A woman's health at the time of conception lays the foundation for a healthy pregnancy and the lifelong health of her child. We investigated the health behaviours of UK women planning pregnancy. Methods We analysed survey data from the 'Planning for Pregnancy' online tool (Tommy's, UK). We described all women planning pregnancy and compared the frequency of non-adherence to preconception recommendations in women who had already stopped contraception (active planners) and those who had not (non-active planners). Results One hundred thirty-one thousand one hundred eighty-two women from across the UK were included, of whom 64.8% were actively planning pregnancy. Of the whole cohort, twenty percent were smokers and less than one third took folic acid supplements (31.5%). Forty two percent engaged in less than the recommended 150 min of weekly physical activity and only 53.3% consumed five portions of fruit or vegetables 4 days a week. Smokers were 1.87 times more likely to be active planners than non-smokers (95% CI 1.79–1.94), and women who took folic acid were 7 times more likely to be active planners (95% CI 6.97–7.59) compared to women who did not. Smoking, drug use and lack of folic acid supplementation were common in younger women and those who were underweight. Conclusions This unique survey of UK women has identified poor adherence to preconception recommendations in those planning pregnancies and supports the need for a greater public health focus on preconception health. This study provides a contemporary basis from which to inform preconception health advice and a benchmark to measure changes over time.