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Page last updated at 12:45 GMT, Monday, 10 December 2007

Overweight and pregnant

Pregnant woman
More or Less
Monday, 10 December, 2007
BBC Radio 4, 1630 GMT

"Over half of new mothers who die are overweight or obese."

This was the most widely reported finding of the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health (Cemach) published last week. But does this fact on its own, tell us anything useful?

Our reporter Ruth Alexander has been investigating exactly what the scientists know about the risks to pregnant women who are overweight and whether their levels are any higher than women of medically desirable weight.

Size matters

Our reporter Mukul Devichand found out why buying clothes for the women in his life is so difficult to do well.

The sizing system for women's clothes in Britain is what is known as a customary or folk system. It is based on the practice of tailors over hundreds of years and was finally codified by the British Standards Institution in the 1950s.

But retailers are now coming up with their own definitions of what the traditional size 10, 12, 14 etc are.

In mainland Europe, there is a lack of uniformity too. An Italian size 44 is equivalent to a French size 40 and a German size 38.

There are plans to standardise sizing across Europe, replacing our current systems with more precise sizes based on six-eight digit codes.

But will it make shopping easier?

Mukul spoke to Elizabeth Fox who is negotiating on behalf of the British Standards Institute with her European counterparts and to Warwick Cairns, a staunch defender of Imperial measures and author of That's About The Size Of It.

Do carers really want recognition rather than cash?

More or Less listener and carer Roger Fownes was surprised to hear that a survey by Carers UK had found that the number one concern of carers was recognition by professionals. He had expected money to be of greater concern. A closer look at the survey of results showed Roger's suspicions were justified.

Presenter Tim Harford spoke to Kate Groucutt, policy officer of Carers UK, why her organisation chose not to highlight carers' true priority.

International League tables ... again

Last week we explained why the fact that England and Scotland had fallen down the Progress in International Literacy Study (Pirls) international literacy league table did not necessarily mean a fall in absolute standards.

But the teachers' respite from criticism was short. Within a few days there was news of another international study, this time published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The results of this survey produced headlines claiming that the maths and reading skills of the average 15 year old in Britain are in sharp decline.

So, is it time to panic?

BBC Radio 4's More or Less was broadcast on Monday 10 December 2007 at 1630 GMT.

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