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Healthy lifestyle programs improve the pregnancy experiences and health outcomes of expecting pregnant mothers to be, Monash University research has revealed.

The systematic review incorporated 34,546 pregnancies and highlighted that supporting mums-to-be with a structured, healthy lifestyle program that provides structured, evidence-based health information, advice and guidance from professionals about healthy eating and physical activity during this priority life stage, helps achieve a healthier pregnancy.

The findings, published in the JAMA International Journal, also revealed that the programs could significantly improves pregnancy complications, reducing procedures such as C-Sections and newborn admissions to Neonatal Intensive Care Units,  saving the health system up to half a billion dollars per year.

Lead author, Professor Helena Teede, Director of the Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation (MCHRI) at Monash University, said the study, affirmed the need for structured pregnancy mothers to be.

“We’ve long known the importance of a healthy lifestyle in pregnancy, but this global evidence highlights the critical need for these interventions to be accessible during routine pregnancy care and the impact they can have on improving health outcomes,” Professor Teede said.

Around half of all pregnant women in developed nations gain above the recommended pregnancy weight after struggling to balance dietary in-take and physical activity, with an increased risk of factors such as “gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, premature birth, unnecessary cesarean sections” as a result.

Professor Teede said ensuring a structured program was key to a successful and healthy outcome for both pregnant parent and child.

“Providing resources and weight monitoring alone was not enough to improve outcomes for mums and babies. Only when structured diet and physical activity support programs were delivered, did we see the health benefits.”

Dr Cheryce Harrison, co-lead of the Healthy Lifestyle Stream at MCHRA and senior author of the report, said  there are already plans to expand the findings into practical clinical outputs.

“With funding already secured from the Victorian Government, we are actively working to see these evidence-based programs, delivered by dedicated trained health professionals, available and integrated into routine care for all pregnant women,” Dr Harrison, who is leading the OptimalMe program, said.

“We are now working with the government to ensure national guidelines reflect this best practice evidence and are aiming to make these programs accessible to Australian women, no matter where they live, and to access pregnancy care.”