Poor health can affect your offspring even before conceiving

By Drum Digital
29 August 2014

A new study has revealed a bad diet, drinking or smoking can affect the health of a person's future baby.

It found links between an unhealthy lifestyle in a person's teen years or 20s and the wellbeing of their children, even years before they're conceived.

Problems such as obesity triggered by a way of life may be passed on to the next generation, and Australian scientists believe they’ve discovered "overwhelming evidence" that this lack of health can have an effect on the mother's egg or father's sperm. They’ve labelled this as a baby being “pre-programmed”, and the research into this has been going on for around a decade.

"People used to think that lifestyle didn’t matter because a child represented a new beginning with a fresh start.

"The reality is we can now say with great certainty that the child doesn’t quite start from scratch – they already carry over a legacy of factors from their parents’ experiences that can shape development in the foetus and after birth," Professor Sarah Robertson of the University of Adelaide explained.

The findings were documented in the journal Science, and found those babies whose parents had conditions such as diabetes or immune disorders were more likely to inherit the problems.

Children are most at risk from the mother and father's actions in the three months leading up to conception, as this is when the eggs and sperm are in the final process of developing. However, this doesn't mean any behaviour before then won't contribute and have an impact.

"Many things we do in the lead-up to conceiving is having an impact on the future development of the child – from the age of the parents, to poor diet, obesity, smoking and many other factors, all of which influence environmental signals transmitted into the embryo," Professor Robertson added.

This research has also added more to the Darwinian Theory that a baby's fate is determined many years before it begins its journey.

However, this link isn't all bad. For example, if a parent goes through a period of hunger during a stage in their life, it may mean their baby is also able to survive with less food than required. But then there’s the fact that if they eat too much, it may push them over the edge into developing illnesses such as diabetes, so parents-to-be must be careful.

"A few lifestyle changes by potential parents and improvements in the right direction, especially in the months leading up to conception, could have a lasting, positive benefit for the future of their child," Professor Robertson concluded.

-Cover Media

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