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New NICE nutrition standard

31 July, 2015

New NICE nutrition standard

A quality standard to help improve maternal and child nutrition has been published by NICE.

The new standard aims to support improved nutrition for women who may become pregnant before, during and after pregnancy (up to a year after birth), and for babies and pre-school children.

The quality statements in the standard set out the priority actions to enable better nutrition.

They include that pregnant women attending antenatal and health visitor appointments are advised how to eat healthily in pregnancy; women with a BMI of 30 or more following childbirth are offered a structured weight-loss programme; pregnant women and parents and carers of children under four years, who may be eligible for the Healthy Start scheme, are given information and support to apply; and women receive breastfeeding support from a service that uses an evaluated, structured programme.

With a focus on low-income and other disadvantaged households, the standard is expected to contribute to improving outcomes in areas including postnatal depression, childhood illnesses and infections and iron-deficiency anaemia.

RCM professional advisor Janet Fyle said: ‘We welcome this standard, which provides the base for midwives and other health professionals to work from and give the best possible advice and care to parents. 

‘Midwives have a key role in advising and supporting women to eat more healthily. During pregnancy is an ideal opportunity to promote healthy eating and a healthier lifestyle. We also need to ensure that women who require it are signposted to appropriate weight management services and social support. 

‘There is also a real need for a much wider view on this. It signals the need for a much stronger focus on better health and nutrition education in schools, health promotion for women and improved pre-conceptual care. It also requires significant investment in tackling social exclusion and deprivation in the UK.

‘Ultimately, the recommendations in this standard can only be implemented and put into practice if there are people on the ground to do it. We know that England is still 2600 full-time midwives short of the numbers needed.

‘We are also increasingly hearing of the loss of specialist midwives, particularly in areas such as breastfeeding support. If we are to improve maternal and child health – and it is crucial that we do – this issue of staff shortages also has to be addressed.’

Read the standard here.

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