Good health in pregnancy

Research points to the important influence of good health in pregnancy for child development

Gravida’s involvement in a new workforce development programme funded by the Ministry of Health comes as a huge amount of international and local research proves that healthy weight management in pregnancy is important to the ongoing health of both mothers and babies.

The research findings can be grouped into two main overarching themes:

1) New knowledge that maternal obesity increases the risk of many pregnancy complications that put both mother and baby at risk - including induction or premature birth (which can lead to life-long health complications), large or small birth weight babies, pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and hypoglycaemia (see footnote 1);

2) New knowledge that both maternal malnutrition and obesity can be linked to increased predisposition or ‘programming’ of obesity and other metabolic diseases including diabetes in future generations (see footnote 2).

Internationally, health professionals other countries such as Australia and the UK (see footnote 3) have already announced new initiatives that focus on supporting pregnant mothers with healthy weight management, physical activity and nutrition programmes, as a key strategy for targeting their own increasing prevalence of metabolic diseases including diabetes and obesity.

Focusing on a ‘better start to life’ has also been identified by the Government in the National Science Challenges and in this current MOH range of programmes.

By contributing to empowering and supporting health professionals and mothers to access knowledgeable help and make informed choices, Gravida hopes to help improve the health and health literacy of current generations of families, and the future wellbeing of generations to come.

Gravida is committed to working with all public health and health promotion staff to translate new discoveries into useful information that makes a difference to the future wellbeing of ’s children.


1. Examples of major research in this area include the findings of a study of 1.5 million babies released in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) in June 2013, see here; and locally, the 2011 published findings of the NZ SCOPE study and its contributing authors including Gravida Principal Investigator Professor Lesley McCowan, see here. Items on a wide range of other studies in this area can be found on Gravida’s website at

2. Examples of major research in this area include a Danish study looking at the effects of malnutrition during the war on the next generation of children (2001) see here; locally, many articles on the effects of both maternal malnutrition and obesity in animal models have been published by Liggins Institute researchers including Gravida Principal Investigator Associate Professor Mark Vickers – see website.  Other Gravida members working at the University of Otago such as Associate Professor Peter Dearden and Dr Christine Jasoni are studying the effect of epigenetics as well as the neurological developmental effects of obesity, see here.

3. In June 2013 the British Nutrition Foundation announced the findings of a UK-wide taskforce into pregnancy, health and children’s development, which is set to influence new public health programmes. Read their publication “Nutrition and Development: Implications for Short term and long term healthhere. In Australia, healthy weight checks are routine in pregnancy checks, and RANZCOG (Royal Australian and College of Obstetricians and Gynacologists) published their reviewed obesity in pregnancy management guidelines in March 2013.

Please note this list is a representative sample only of a wide range of published research.