Researchers at the University of Newcastle say many pregnant Australian women have difficulty exercising enough and consuming the recommended levels of nutrients.
A report on women's reproductive health — released by the Minister for Health and Ageing, the Hon Nicola Roxon MP — is the latest from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health (ALSWH). Now in its 16th year, the ALSWH has surveyed more than 40,000 women across three age groups.
"While women generally improve their diets when pregnant, many consume less than the recommended levels of folate and iron," report contributor, Jennifer Powers, said. “Many women quit smoking and stop drinking alcohol during pregnancy, but a small percentage of women continue to smoke and drink alcohol at levels considered unwise for pregnant women.
"Our research suggests there is an ongoing need for targeted public health messages that promote healthy behaviours during and after pregnancy."
The survey also showed that around 10 per cent of women who had given birth within a three-year period reported a diagnosis of post-natal depression.
"This diagnosis was less likely in mothers who had good social support networks," report contributor, Catherine Chojenta, said.
Ms Powers said the health and wellbeing of mothers could also be influenced by their attachment to the paid workforce.
"Women who took 12 or more weeks maternity leave reported higher energy levels than women who took less time off work.
"These findings support the Australian Government's initiative for a minimum amount of maternity leave for all women."
The ALSWH is funded by the Australian Government through the Department of Health and Ageing.
Jennifer Powers and Catherine Chojenta are members of the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) Public Health Research Program.
HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.