Pregnancy Preparation Among Women and Their Partners in the UK: How Common Is It and What Do People Do?

February 14, 2024

Being prepared for pregnancy has been linked to better outcomes for both mothers and their babies (1,2). This preparation can involve optimising existing medical conditions, modifying behaviour like smoking, and taking vitamins such as folic acid. Currently, 90% of women of reproductive age in the UK have at least one risk factor that could be targeted before pregnancy (3). Despite this, there appears to be a lack of awareness of the importance of pre-pregnancy planning in the UK.

Data from the P3 Study has been analysed to describe the changes women and their partners make in preparation for pregnancy (6). Surveying non-pregnant women in the UK, they explored both their plans for preparation and the reasons behind not preparing.

The study found that less than half of women thinking about or trying for pregnancy had made changes in preparation. The most common changes reported were “eating healthier” or “taking folic acid”. Furthermore, only 24% of partners reported making changes for pregnancy. These changes were most commonly “eating healthier” or “stopping or cutting down alcohol”.

Reasons for making no changes in preparation for pregnancy ranged from “only thinking about trying to get pregnant” to beliefs that “there is nothing I need to do to improve my health in preparation for pregnancy because I am already healthy” and “once I am pregnant, I will take some action for a healthy pregnancy”.

The only significant factor associated with predicting preparation in pregnancy was the Desire to Avoid Pregnancy (DAP) score, a tool shown in other P3 studies to measure preference for pregnancy.

The results of this study highlight the lack of preparation amongst women thinking about and trying for pregnancy. The reasons given in this survey show that there is a lack of awareness about the time it can take to prepare for pregnancy, and the importance of intervening before conception. Misconceptions were also identified regarding what “healthy” women and partners can do to prepare for pregnancy.

More work is clearly required to identify and improve gaps in preconception care.


  1. Maas, V. Y. F., Poels, M., Kievit, M. H. D., Hartog, A. P., Franx, A., & Koster, M. P. H. (2022). Planning is not equivalent to preparing, how Dutch women perceive their pregnancy planning in relation to preconceptional lifestyle behaviour change-a cross-sectional study. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth22(1), 577.
  2. Fleming, T. P., Watkins, A. J., Velazquez, M. A., Mathers, J. C., Prentice, A. M., Stephenson, J., Barker, M., Saffery, R., Yajnik, C. S., Eckert, J. J., Hanson, M. A., Forrester, T., Gluckman, P. D., & Godfrey, K. M. (2018). Origins of lifetime health around the time of conception: Causes and consequences. Lancet (London, England)391(10132), 1842–1852.
  3. McDougall, B., Kavanagh, K., Stephenson, J., Poston, L., Flynn, A. C., & White, S. L. (2021). Health behaviours in 131,182 UK women planning pregnancy. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth21(1), 530–541.
  4. Daly, M. P., White, J., Sanders, J., & Kipping, R. R. (2022). Women’s knowledge, attitudes and views of preconception health and intervention delivery methods: A cross-sectional survey. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth22(1), 729.
  5. McGowan, L., Lennon-Caughey, E., Chun, C., McKinley, M. C., & Woodside, J. V. (2020). Exploring preconception health beliefs amongst adults of childbearing age in the UK: A qualitative analysis. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth20(1), 41.
  6. Catherine Stewart & Jennifer Hall (2023) Pregnancy Preparation Among Women and Their Partners in the UK: How Common Is It and What Do People Do?, Women’s Reproductive Health,DOI: 10.1080/23293691.2023.2271919