Could 1 in 4 miscarriages be prevented by lifestyle changes?

Big claims are made in today's media headlines - but what's the real story?

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It’s a startling statistic: Changes in lifestyle could prevent a quarter of miscarriages, headlines claim today.

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The Daily Mail’s headline reads: “1 in 4 miscarriages ‘could be prevented with changes to a woman’s lifestyle’.”

But what’s the real story behind this dramatic headline?

Well, in short, there’s no new advice.

The story is based on a study from the University of Copenhagen that looked at 91,427 pregnancies and asked women who were 16 weeks pregnant about their lifestyle before conception and during pregnancy.

The study found that the following factors were all ‘associated’ with miscarriage:

  • age
  • drinking alcohol
  • lifting more than 20kg
  • doing night shifts
  • being obese or overweight 

However, this advice is nothing new and British doctors have argued they don’t have the hard evidence to suggest these factors directly caused the women to miscarry.

Professor Tom Bourne, a consultant gynaecologist at London’s Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital, told the Daily Mail: “This is a big study, but it doesn’t really say anything new. There are also issues of recall bias, and the fact that they show an association rather than causation.

“Saying that by changing x or y a percentage of miscarriages could be prevented is quite a statement. However, it adds to the view that alcohol in pregnancy is not a good idea.”

Another expert, Patrick Wolfe, Professor of Statistics at University College London, urged caution over interpretation of the study. He agreed that the research did not show a causal link and warned that it shouldn’t be seen as conclusive.

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