Background: Alternative lifestyles are often associated with distinct practices with respect to nutrition, physical activity, smoking, alcohol use and usage of complementary medicine. Evidence concerning effects of these lifestyle-related practices on health status is still fragmentary.
Objective: To describe maternal health characteristics related to alternative lifestyles, with emphasis on body-weight status, during pregnancy and maternity periods.
Methods: We compared self-reported health-related features of mothers with alternative lifestyles and conventional lifestyles during pregnancy and maternity period in the KOALA Birth Cohort Study. This cohort comprises two recruitment groups of mother-infant pairs, one with a conventional (no selection based on lifestyle, n = 2333), the other with an alternative lifestyle (selected via organic food shops, anthroposophic clinicians and midwives, anthroposophic under-five clinics, Rudolf Steiner schools and relevant magazines, n = 485). Mothers in the alternative group more frequently chose organic foods, adhered to specific living rules, practised vegetarianism and identified themselves with anthroposophy.
Results: Mothers in the alternative group showed lower BMI and lower prevalence of overweight and obesity than the conventional group, before pregnancy as well as 4-5 years after delivery. This difference was partly retained after adjusting for potential confounders. Furthermore, women in the alternative group had a lower prevalence of pregnancy-related hypertension, more often started breastfeeding and gave exclusive and prolonged breastfeeding for a longer period. Finally, they smoked less often, but more often drunk alcohol during pregnancy.
Conclusion: The results suggest that an alternative lifestyle is associated with favourable body weight and with several differences in other health features.