Getting Fit For A Family in the best possible way

Smoking, obesity, too much alcohol and poor mental health can all have a significant impact when it comes to starting a family.

National data suggests up to 2,200 premature births and 5,000 miscarriages are caused by smoking every year in the UK. Of the 7,085 women giving birth in Oxfordshire in 2016, 559 were smoking at the time of delivery. Smoking can also cause fertility problems in men.

In response, Oxfordshire County Council’s Public Health team has launched its own ‘Getting Fit For A Family’ campaign to improve fertility, pregnancy health and the future health of your baby.

Losing weight, eating a nutrient-rich balanced diet, stopping smoking, reducing alcohol consumption and keeping fit and active can improve fertility for men and woman. And once you have conceived, following the same healthy lifestyle will help reduce the chances of complications during pregnancy.

Obesity can reduce fertility in both men and women, and increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, developmental abnormalities and gestational diabetes. Estimates suggest half of those women giving birth in Oxfordshire in 2016 were overweight or obese.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage and low birth rate, as well as the risk of developing Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. In men, drinking too much alcohol can also cause fertility problems.

And poor maternal and paternal mental health can impact on the healthy development of babies and children, including child mental health. Suicide is one of the commonest causes of maternal mortality in the UK. It is also acknowledged that around 10% of fathers will suffer post-natal depression.


Quitting smoking altogether is the best thing you and your partner can do. Smoking cigarettes can reduce fertility in both men and women, and may mean it takes longer to get pregnant. If you do conceive and carry on, a smoke-filled environment increases the risk of more serious complications for you and your baby with issues like maternal deep vein thrombosis, miscarriage and foetal abnormalities. Young babies also have a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

Our quit smoking organisation www.smokefreelifeoxfordshire.co.uk has been taking its wellness on wheels vans across the county for pop-up smoking cessation clinics. People have been getting free NRT therapies to get them on the road to a smoke-free future. You can sign up for an appointment for face-to-face or telephone support by visiting the website.


Alcohol crosses the placenta and while there is no known safe level to drink during pregnancy, it is known the more you drink the bigger the risks – including increasing the chances of your baby having learning difficulties. For alcohol and drugs advice turn to www.wellbeing.turning-point.co.uk/oxfordshire

It has hubs in Oxford, Witney, Banbury and Didcot which offer warm welcomes to all service users, family and friends. It has dedicated recovery workers, support and aftercare, harm reduction, peer mentoring, and even activities and trips.


Maternal obesity increases the risk of obesity and diabetes in offspring and increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, metabolic and developmental abnormalities in the foetus; as well as gestational diabetes and complications in pregnancy and birth. Obesity can also reduce male and female fertility. A study by the babies’ research charity Tommy’s showed that, compared with normal-weight women, overweight and obese women were much more likely to have depression both during and after pregnancy. They were also more likely to suffer from anxiety during pregnancy.

If you need help shifting the pounds, there’s a host of info and practical advice from www.achieveoxfordshire.co.ukwww.oxspa.co.uk, and for male footie fans who want to get back in action on the pitch, there’s the popular FA-endorsed Man v Fat leagues in Oxford, Bicester and Banbury (www.manvfat.com)

Mental health

Being mentally well in pregnancy is just as important as your physical health. General ways individuals can improve their mental health include the five ways to wellbeing; Be active, connect with friends and family, keep learning, give to others, be mindful of your thoughts and feelings.

If you feel you need support, contact the friendly and helpful team at Oxfordshire Mind (www.oxfordshiremind.org.uk)

Planning ahead

Folic acid: Ideally, this should be taken two to three months before conception to protect against problems with the baby’s brain and spinal cord.

Contraception: Some methods can affect fertility for some time after stopping. If you are thinking about planning a family, talk to your GP for more advice.

Health: If you have any pre-existing medical issues, especially if you are on medication, speak to your GP before trying to conceive

As part of the ‘Getting Fit For A Family’ campaign, the Public Health team has published a handy leaflet to ensure both mums and dads-to-be are in tip-top condition.

The leaflet, which is available from GP surgeries and sexual health clinics through to health visitors and maternity services, details many of the county council-commissioned services and partner organisations which offer support and keep Oxfordshire thriving.

Donna Husband, Head of Commissioning Health Improvement at Oxfordshire County Council’s Public Health department, said: “There is a lot of information for women about pre-conception and pregnancy, however there isn’t much for men.

“We want to speak to people planning a pregnancy about their health when trying to conceive as it doesn’t just have a short-term effect on the baby but can have lifelong effects on your children.

“For example, there are 2,200 premature births and 5,000 miscarriages caused by smoking every year in the UK - smoking can also cause fertility problems in men.”

For more advice on a healthy pregnancy visit Oxfordshire County Council’s dedicated page here https://bit.ly/2Nwvdrb