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Better Beginings: Improving Health for Pregnancy

NIHR research into health before, during and after pregnancy

This review brings together recent evidence on improving health and wellbeing before, during, and after pregnancy from studies funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The NIHR was set up in 2006 as the research arm of the NHS to provide a health research system focused on the needs of patients and the public.

Better Beginnings is not a comprehensive review of all evidence on improving health for pregnancy which is a broad area of knowledge and practice. It focuses on building health for women to support pregnancy and the future health of their children. Further relevant research from the NIHR is available, relating to the management of pregnancy, long term health conditions in pregnancy and the provision of maternity services, including workforce and models of care.

This review complements other initiatives, drawing on best evidence, including guidance and quality standards from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Further sources of information and resources for each topic are signposted in this report.

Unless stated otherwise, all research mentioned in this report is funded entirely or substantively by NIHR. The appendices feature summaries of the research, and you can download full reports and protocols in most cases from the NIHR Journals Library website

This review provides research evidence for healthcare professionals working with women around the time of pregnancy, particularly midwives, general practitioners, obstetricians, and health visitors. It is also relevant to colleagues with a wider interest in women’s and children’s health including public health, children’s services and social care. Evidence can help commissioners to plan and shape future services.We hope that the review will also be useful to women interested in research findings about health for pregnancy.