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Underweight women at greater risk of miscarriage

Women who have a low body mass index before they become pregnant are 72% more likely to suffer a miscarriage in the first three months of pregnancy, but can reduce their risk significantly by taking supplements and eating fresh fruit and vegetables, according to study findings published online today.

These are some of the findings of a new study, which appears today in the online edition of BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The study, from a team based at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, aimed to examine the association between biological, behavioural and lifestyle risk factors and the risk of miscarriage, which affects an estimated quarter of a million women in the UK every year1.

While there are a number of well-established risk factors, such as increased maternal age, a previous history of miscarriage, and infertility, the causes of the majority of miscarriages are not fully understood. Many supposed risk factors, for example alcohol consumption, smoking and caffeine intake, remain controversial or unconfirmed.

The researchers questioned 603 women aged 18-55 in the UK whose most recent pregnancy had ended in first trimester miscarriage (less than 13 weeks gestation) and 6,116 women whose most recent pregnancy had progressed beyond 12 weeks. The women were asked about socio-demographic, behavioural and other factors in their most recent pregnancy. The findings confirmed the findings of previous studies into possible risk factors, for example in relation to increased maternal age and alcohol consumption, but they also revealed a number of interesting new associations.

They found that underweight women were 72% more likely to miscarry in the first trimester. However, women who took vitamin supplements during early pregnancy reduced their risk by around 50%, with the effect being most pronounced among those taking folic acid or iron and multivitamins, which contain these. Eating
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Contact: Lindsay Wright
lindsay.wright@lshtm.ac.uk
020-792-72073
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
3-Dec-2006


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