Planning for Your Future Baby’s Health
We already know that a mother's nutrition is essential for the healthy development of her unborn baby.
The diet in pregnancy is known to influence several aspects of the mother's baby's future health,
including everything from the child's risk of diabetes and obesity to his or her cognitive development. The specific ways in which this occurs are unknown, but increasing research suggests that epigenetic alterations play a critical role.
Epigenetics is the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work. While we may be genetically predisposed to something, the expression of that gene can be influenced by nutrition, lifestyle, and the environment. The impact of nutrition on epigenetic response seems to be most influential during the first two years of life!
Commonly, expecting mothers are advised on what kinds of food they should be consuming during pregnancy. However, similar advice seems to apply if you are trying to conceive. A woman's diet at the time of conception might cause lasting changes in the DNA of her children, potentially influencing their development.
The preconception period covers the final stages of egg and sperm growth, fertilization, and embryo development before implantation into the uterus. If you are planning for a family sometime in the future, you might be interested to know that your choices today can affect the genes of your unborn baby. Exposure to environmental factors such as nutrition, climate, stress, pathogens, toxins, and even social behavior during the first week or so after conception can directly affect an epigenetic outcome.
A study, conducted for two years across 34 villages of The Gambia in Western Africa, is the first to show that an environmental factor can change a baby’s DNA long-term during the first few days of development. The results show a child’s genes could be differently interpreted based on the mother’s diet, which are important and may have implications for the health outcomes of the next generation.
It is understood that optimum maternal health is essential to support healthy conception and pregnancy. However, paternal health is of equal importance.
Scientists have linked paternal exposures to toxic chemicals with higher risks of cancer and genital malformations in children. There is evidence that children may have a higher risk of metabolic diseases and type 2 diabetes if their father ate a poor diet before conception. Studies have demonstrated that the nutritional conditions of paternal grandfathers influenced the metabolic health and longevity of their grandchildren. We have also seen that children of obese fathers are more likely to become obese.
Preconception nutrition has a multigenerational impact! Studies show that the nutritional status of the mother and father impacts their baby and their child’s reproductive cells - therefore, their baby’s baby.
The developing embryo can be set up for success or made more susceptible to future health issues. Taking steps to epigenetically enhance your DNA, before conception and during pregnancy, will ensure the healthiest outcomes for not only yourself but also your future baby and his or her children. Preconception planning is ideal to start about 3 months before conception so you can promote profound impacts on the future of your child.
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