Southampton researchers have urged the government to consider how to better support people in preparing for pregnancy and parenthood across the UK.
Speaking at a government taskforce, Prof Keith Godfrey pressed the need for more support before pregnancy for women from ethnic minority groups and those living in deprived areas.
The time before pegnancy is known as 'preconception'. He has said that providing better support during this time could improve pregnancy outcomes for these mothers and their babies, alongside making an important contribution to reducing inequalities in health.
Offering a solution
Women in the UK from ethnic minority groups and women living in deprived areas tend to have worse pregnancy outcomes. Black women are 40% more likely to experience a miscarriage than white women, and there are higher rates of still births in many deprived areas.
The government's Department for Health and Social Care runs the Maternity Disparities Taskforce. This aims to find out how the government can tackle these differences.
Prof Godfrey leads the Nutrition, Lifestyle and Metabolism theme at the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre. He also co-chairs the UK Preconception Partnership, which aims to improve preconception care in England.
He spoke at a recent Maternity Disparities Taskforce meeting. After presenting relevant research, he shared the vision of the UK Preconception Partnership. He urged the taskforce to consider preconception care as a solution.
Prof Godfrey said: “The time before pregnancy represents a special opportunity to break the transgenerational transmission of behavioural and physiological risks that underlie ill-health, such as poor-quality diets, lack of physical inactivity, obesity and smoking.
“Supporting and enabling all potential parents to optimise their preconception health will improve outcomes for the mother, for her pregnancy and for her children.
"The Maternity Disparities Taskforce is playing a critical role in ensuring that real change can be made. The UK Preconception Partnership is committed to supporting this mission.”
Listening to women
The Preconception Partnership was established in 2018. It aims to translate evidence in a Lancet Series into clinical practice. It also intends to normalise the idea of preparing for a healthy pregnancy.
The Maternity Disparities Taskforce was set up to tackle disparities for mothers and babies. It also aims to reduce maternal and neonatal deaths. It intends to do this by improving access to care around pregnancy for women from ethnic minorities and those living in the most deprived areas.
The meeting considered pre-pregnancy care and guidance for Black women and women in deprived areas.
Maria Caulfield, Minister for Women’s Health Strategy, said: “Regardless of race or background, everyone should receive the highest quality maternity care.
“All stages of a woman’s life, from before she is pregnant to after delivery, are crucial to the health and wellbeing of both mother and baby.
“Today we met with mothers and healthcare experts to ensure women from ethnic minorities and those from deprived areas have access the right care and support for their journey into parenthood – and are listened to throughout this experience.
“We are considering the outcomes of the taskforce, and I will be monitoring progress closely to ensure real change can be made.”