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The dietary beliefs and attitudes of women who have had a low-birthweight baby: a retrospective preconception study

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Background and aims

A poor diet in the preconception period is believed to lead to an increased chance of the subsequent baby being born with a low birth weight (LBW) and in particular symmetrically growth retarded (where both the head and the body are proportionately small). The aim of this study was to determine whether a woman’s diet, social background and attitude towards diet has any bearing on the incidence of LBW. Method

A questionnaire was administered to 31 mothers who had had a LBW baby and 29 age-matched controls who had normal birthweight babies (NBW) in order to discover whether there were differences between their diets and beliefs and attitudes to healthy eating. Results

The LBW group were significantly more likely to have lost weight prior to conception (3–6 months before) while the NBW mothers were more likely to have gained weight prior to conception. The LBW group were more likely to have had a previous LBW baby. Only 9% of mothers changed their diet in anticipation of pregnancy with only 7% of mothers having taken folic acid prior to conception (although most of the questionnaires were administered prior to the folic acid campaign). Conclusion and recommendations

The majority of mothers welcomed more information on nutrition in relation to preconception care and indicated that booklets would be the most appreciated form of receiving this information. This may encourage mothers to make appropriate changes to their diet before conception, including taking folic acid. It is proposed that a nationwide booklet be made widely available to all women of reproductive age which highlights the important preconception points.
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Keywords: asymmetric growth retardation; fertility; low birthweight; preconception; pregnancy; symmetric growth retardation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Women’s Health Dietitian, Nutrition and Dietetic Department, University College London Hospital Trust, Gower Street, London; 2: Health and Sports Science, University of North London

Publication date: 2000-02-01

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