Media releases

March 2, 2018

MEDIBANK WELCOMES NEW COMMONWEALTH HEALTHY WEIGHT GUIDELINES AS IT EMBARKS ON AUSTRALIA’S FIRST HEALTHY LIFESTYLE PRE-CONCEPTION TRIAL

Medibank and Monash University trial to support healthier pregnancies begins

Medibank's Head of Health Economics and Outcomes Dr Catherine Keating and Monash University's leading experts on reproductive women's health, Professor Helena Teede and Dr Cheryce Harrison, have today welcomed the Commonwealth's new pregnancy guidelines that recognise body mass index prior to pregnancy, and weight gain during pregnancy, are important determinants of health for both mothers and babies.

It comes as Medibank and Monash University will start an Australian-first joint trial to better support women with a pre-conception to post-partum healthy lifestyle and weight program.

Professor Teede and Dr Harrison have recently led and contributed to two ground-breaking studies. One revealed around 50 per cent of women gain too much weight during pregnancy while 25 per cent gain too little weight – both of which can cause adverse outcomes such as premature births. The other study showed that healthy lifestyle interventions can protect against weight-related pregnancy complications.

The studies confirm Medibank’s own data from 19,000 births in 2016, which showed an increasing trend of pregnancy-related adverse health outcomes and gestational diabetes in one out of every ten pregnancies. 

Dr Harrison said the studies have paved the way for this trial with Medibank.

“We have enough studies that show the effectiveness and importance of leading a healthy lifestyle before and through pregnancy. It’s now vital that we put this knowledge into practice to benefit women in the community,” she said.

Dr Keating said the focus of the Medibank and funded Monash University program will be to provide much greater support to women before and during pregnancy to help them achieve a healthy pregnancy and baby.

“We know there is confusion around healthy lifestyle factors and pregnancy weight gain.  Our goal is to provide women with the support they need to improve their health and that of their baby.  This type of support is currently limited in standard antenatal care” said Dr Keating.

“As a mother of two young daughters, I remember people offering – sometimes uninvited – advice about my body and how to approach pregnancy. The problem is that some suggestions, such as being encouraged to ‘eat for two’, may increase the risk of pregnancy complications,” she said.

“Weight is a sensitive topic and a source of anxiety for many women. This will be respected in this Medibank and funded Monash University program, which will be free and range from face to face, online, and phone support tailored to the needs of each voluntary participant,” added Dr Keating.

Before the main trial begins, Medibank will seek input from thousands of its customers to shape how support is offered.  Voluntary participants in the main trial will receive evidence-based dietary advice and support to stay physically active to optimise a healthy pre-conception weight, during pregnancy and after birth.  Other preconception support will include screening for fertility risks and other pregnancy risks, such as smoking, alcohol and inadequate folate intake.

Professor Teede said she was thrilled to see her research being applied through the program to benefit Australian women.

“It is great to partner with Medibank for this trial, particularly because preconception populations are very difficult to identify and support.  This research will allow us to better understand optimal and preferred delivery methods to support healthy lifestyles in a community setting.”

Work on the trial has recently commenced and will run over the next three years. 

The trial will be funded by the Medibank Better Health Foundation and will be run through the Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation – world leaders in women's health.

Media enquiries

Mia Greves on 0417 420 227 / mia.greves@medibank.com.au         

 

Notes to editors:

Once pregnant, 50 per cent of women have excessive gestational weight gain and 65 per cent retain weight postpartum.

Each excess kilo gained is linked to a 10 per cent increase in adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes.

Expected trial outcomes will include improved pre-conception health behaviours, adherence to international gestational weight gain recommendations in pregnancy, reduced pregnancy complications (gestational diabetes, caesarean rates and neonatal admissions) and fewer women with postpartum weight retention.

 


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