(Montreal) Women’s health often leaves much to be desired before pregnancy, or even between two pregnancies, despite the resources at their disposal, shows a study by a Toronto researcher.

Excess weight, physical inactivity, poor nutrition and mental health issues are among the top issues identified by Cindy-Lee Dennis of the University of Toronto and her colleagues.

About half of pregnancies are unplanned, recalled Dr. Anne-Maude Morency, who is an obstetrician-gynecologist at the McGill University Health Center, and it is therefore difficult for a woman to take charge of her health before becoming pregnant.

But even among those who are planning their pregnancies, “the reality is that only the small minority of people come to these preconception clinics,” she added, referring to clinics where women can get a checkup on their health. with the aim of optimizing a future pregnancy”.

“It’s a pity in fact that people can’t come for a preconception check-up, maybe it’s not part of the general culture, but these are services that exist,” recalled Dr. Morency.

The study authors surveyed 1080 participants about medical, behavioral and social risk factors. Participants had, on average, four risk factors each.

For example, about 45% of them had a body mass index above 30, which makes them obese according to the criteria of the World Health Organization. Women with a BMI over 25 have an increased risk of serious complications during pregnancy; the risk of obesity will also be higher for the child.

Some women who are morbidly obese may be offered bariatric surgery before pregnancy, Dr. Morency said, illustrating the importance of seeking help long before conception.

Not all women need the services of a preconception clinic, she continues, but those who know, for example, that they are overweight, hypertension or diabetes would do well to turn towards them.

“There are still a lot of people who don’t have a family doctor, so this kind of preconception counseling isn’t always done,” Dr. Morency recalled. There is, however, the possibility of optimizing many things before pregnancy, even in people who are not so at risk. »

The consultation is all the more important if the first pregnancy was marked by certain problems that one wishes to avoid during subsequent pregnancies, she concludes.

The findings of this study were published by the medical journal BMJ Family Medicine and Community Health.