Preconception nutrition knowledge, dietary intakes and lifestyle characteristics of Auckland women : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Nutritional Science at Massey University
Introduction Adequate nutritional status prior to conception and during early pregnancy is important in achieving a healthy pregnancy outcome. This study examined preconception nutrition knowledge, and dietary and lifestyle habits in Auckland women of childbearing age. Methods Women aged 18-45 years (n=115) were recruited and data collected using a detailed questionnaire, anthropometric measurements and a diet history to evaluate dietary intakes. Results 18 women were attempting to conceive and 97 women indicated they were not currently planning pregnancy. The reproductive history of the women identified that 53 women had previously been pregnant but only 47% of these pregnancies had been planned. Nearly all of the women (93.7%) had heard of folic acid and 65% were aware that folic acid was required for pregnancy. Although 53.9% of the women knew that folic acid prevents birth defects, only 31.3% of women had specific knowledge that folic acid use a month before conception can prevent neural tube defects. All of the women in the study who were currently planning a pregnancy had heard of folic acid and 13 (72%) were taking a folic acid supplement (≥400μg). Although 80% of the women thought that dietary habits in the preconception period could affect pregnancy outcome few women thought preconception diet could influence risk of miscarriage, preterm delivery or maternal deficiencies. 83% of women used alcohol, 13.0% had a caffeine intake >300 mg/day, 8% smoked and 26.0% were overweight or obese. Conclusions Women recruited to the study demonstrated a lack of awareness of the importance of preconception nutrition and were not in an optimal physical state for pregnancy. The high rate of unplanned pregnancies in New Zealand is a significant obstacle to preconception care and efforts to increase the awareness of the importance of preconception nutrition are needed.