As a GP of 17 years but more than that, a mother to three children, I cannot stress enough the importance of being healthy while pregnant.
While everyone does naturally want to do the best for their children both during pregnancy and as a new parent, it would seem that some people still don't know the simple steps they can take to give their baby the healthiest start in life.
Latest figures show that: one in six women are still obese during pregnancy despite potential for a more difficult pregnancy, riskier birth and a less healthy baby; one in 10 continue smoking throughout pregnancy even though it significantly increases the risk of stillbirth, cot death or lung problems; and one in 10 drink more than the recommended lower-risk pregnancy guidelines - increasing the risk of miscarriage or still birth and stunting growth.
As a nation, we're storing up problems if we carry on like this and I whole heartedly support anything which helps people to make healthier choices whilst pregnant and beyond.
That's why I was confused by Sarah O'Meara's blog post earlier this week about the Hollywood film What to Expect When You're Expecting linking with Start4Life to promote the small steps people can take to give babies the best start possible.
It's interesting to see that Sarah thought the campaign was just for mums. I attended the same screening of the Start4Life advert and of the film, and I came out of it glad that there was a campaign targeting the whole family, not just the mum-to-be. Of course Start4Life is targeting mums - they're the ones carrying the baby for nine months, they're the ones who will be giving birth, and they're the ones who have the most impact on an infant's health either through what they eat, how active they are or how they choose to feed their baby. But this campaign is very much targeted at others who have a huge influence on a baby's health - dads who need to think about giving up smoking; family & friends who have to be reminded that pregnant mums shouldn't be eating for two and; the GPs and midwives women will meet during their pregnancy.
The film brings up some interesting topics, the main characters played by Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez and Elizabeth Banks work their way through the challenges and adventures of pregnancy and parenthood. I think it's a great movie for anyone who's ever been through that experience but, I would encourage people not to dismiss the Start4Life just as a "community announcement" as Sarah suggests.
Start4Life is the little sister brand of Change4Life. The campaign's ethos is about giving tips and advice that work, helping people to make small changes to help them live healthier lives. This isn't the government telling people what to do, and it certainly isn't the government telling mums they're on their own in bringing up a baby. This is about supporting them through every step of the way and being the one-stop-shop for useful suggestions on how to give their baby the best start possible.
Search Start4Life for more information.
Follow Dr. Dawn Harper on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@drdawnharper