A healthy start in life requires a healthy pregnancy beforehand. A proportion of preterm births and other pregnancy complications can be prevented by simple interventions. Thorough and regular antenatal care for instance, a healthy nutrition and a healthy work-and social life before and during pregnancy can protect a pregnant woman from complications and hence, prevent the baby from being born too soon or ill.

Nutrition during pregnancy

Malnutrition of the baby in the womb may cause complications for the child later on. A one-sided, nutrient-poor diet of the mother is not the only reason for malnutrition in the baby. Certain conditions such as preeclampsia, kidney disease, or smoking and alcohol consumption during pregnancy may prevent the baby from growing adequately in the womb, resulting in a lighter and smaller baby.

Certain nutrients are especially important in order to ensure a health growth of the foetus.1

Calcium, Iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, and Folate (Folic Acid)

For more information, please visit: (World Health Organization; Guidelines on maternal health)

Medication during pregnancy

Medicines taken during pregnancy must be safe for both mother and baby. For most illnesses, sufficiently well studied drugs are available which can be taken during pregnancy. All other medicines should be avoided during pregnancy. There are some medicines which should not be taken anymore a certain amount of time before planning a pregnancy. It is always best to consult a healthcare professional about any medicines. The professional may switch a pregnant woman to a different treatment.

Prevention of preterm birth

Measures to prevent preterm birth can predominantly be taken in the areas of healthcare and lifestyle changes already before planning a pregnancy and might decrease the risk of preterm birth:

Comprehensive pre-conceptional advice as well as high quality antenatal care are the most effective ways to prevent pregnancy complications. Attending all antenatal scheduled appointments is hence very important. During these visits, risk factors can be identified and possible health consequences might be prevented or treated. To ensure the best care and health during pregnancy, a woman should visit her health care professional already when anticipating a pregnancy.

⃰ Recommendations may only apply to high- and middle-income settings; GLANCE is depicting the target situation and is aware that this differs from the current situation in some regions.

Daily routines and  habits and the environment influence our health and well-being. During pregnancy, these factors have an impact on the unborn baby. An expecting mother and her partner should be educated and counselled on an optimal nutrition, physical activity and essential immunisations.

Smoking (also second-hand smoking), the consumption of alcohol or any other drugs cannot only increase the risk of preterm birth, moreover, it can seriously harm the behavioural development of the unborn baby and must be avoided during pregnancy. Heavy substance abuse during pregnancy can result in serious problems for the baby, including malformation and mental retardation.

More on maternal and newborn health:

1 (last accessed 22.10.2019).