National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)
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NICE consults on draft recommendations on weight management in pregnancy and after childbirth

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is currently developing new public health guidance on dietary and physical activity interventions for weight management in pregnancy and after childbirth. Draft recommendations have been published on the NICE website today (18 February) for public consultation.

The aim of this new guidance is to help health professionals support women who are pregnant or who are planning a pregnancy and mothers who have had a baby in the last 2 years. Health professionals can ensure that women understand the health risks of being overweight during pregnancy and the importance of achieving a healthy weight prior to pregnancy, and advise them not to try to lose weight while they are pregnant.

The new guidance will be aimed at GPs, obstetricians, midwives, health visitors, dietitians, community pharmacists and all those working in antenatal and postnatal services and children’s centres. The draft recommendations cover four key areas: preparing for pregnancy; pregnant women and women who may become pregnant - particularly those with a BMI over 30kg/m2; and supporting women following childbirth.

Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre for Public Health Excellence at NICE said:“In today’s society women are bombarded by often conflicting advice on what constitutes a healthy diet and how much physical activity they should do during pregnancy and after birth. The aim of developing this new guidance is to provide health professionals with clear recommendations to help them support women prior to and during their pregnancy, as well as after they have given birth.

“Many overweight women have healthy babies, but the evidence does suggest that there are more risks associated with pregnancies in women who have a BMI of over 30.  We want all women to be supported before, during and after they have children so that both they and their babies have the healthiest outcome possible.

“The draft guidance includes a number of practical recommendations, such as ensuring advice on healthy eating and physical activity for women after they have had a baby takes  into account the demands of looking after a small baby and how tired the women are and any health problems they may have. But it also aims to dispel any myths about what and how much to eat during pregnancy - there is no need to ‘eat for two’ or to drink full-fat milk. It’s important for women to understand that weight loss after birth takes time and that physical activity and gradual weight loss will not affect a woman’s ability to breastfeed.

 “We hope that the recommendations will ensure women are provided with the support they need to help them maintain a healthy weight, for them and the health of their baby.”

These recommendations will complement existing NICE guidance on obesity, maternal and child nutrition, antenatal care, postnatal care, physical activity, behaviour change, antenatal and postnatal mental health and diabetes in pregnancy.

The draft recommendations are available on the NICE website at: http://guidance.nice.org.uk/PHG/Wave18/3. Anyone wishing to submit comments on the draft guidance is invited to do so via the NICE website between 18 February and 18 March.