New medical guidelines for pregnancy care

Weight gain for would-be mothers is a key focus of new national medical guideline.
Weight gain for would-be mothers is a key focus of new national medical guideline.

Health professionals are being recommended to discuss a woman's weight gain during pregnancy under new national medical guidelines for the care of expectant mums.

The guidelines, announced by Health Minister Greg Hunt on Friday, also encourage routine Hepatitis C testing at the first antenatal visit, and discourage routine testing for Vitamin D status in the absence of a specific indication.

Mr Hunt said the evidence-based recommendations - designed to support midwives, obstetricians and GPs - are about ensuring the health of both mother and baby, and follow extensive work by medical experts.

"The guidelines recognise that body mass index prior to pregnancy, and weight gain during pregnancy, are among important determinants of health for both mothers and babies," Mr Hunt said in a statement.

"Health professionals are recommended to discuss weight gain, diet and physical activity with all pregnant women.

"They also say all women should be offered the opportunity to be weighed at every antenatal visit, and also encourage self-monitoring of weight."

Body mass index (BMI) is a tool used to measure obesity, which is linked to several pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia (a high blood pressure disorder) and a higher chance of emergency caesarean section.

Also announced by Mr Hunt at the National Women's Health Summit was the launch of a new National Strategic Approach to Maternity Services, led by the Commonwealth Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Professor Debra Thoms.

"To be finalised by mid-2019, the strategy will guide national maternity services policy, aligning delivery of services with available evidence and monitoring performance and outcomes so that progress can be measured and improvements identified," Mr Hunt said in Sydney.

Australian Associated Press