How Your Pregnancy Affects Your Child’s Health … Forever

preg_healthy
Image via laura dye/Flickr

 

We know that a lot of our choices during pregnancy can affect our children — from everything we eat while we're pregnant to how much we exercise, what we do during pregnancy affects everything about that little baby developing inside of us.

Last month, NPR reported on new research that points out just how important fetal development in the womb really is.  

The article looked at the process of epigenetics, which basically is the process of how cells are triggered to develop — the physical “switches” that tell one cell to turn into heart cells and others to become brain cells. 

MORE:  What You Eat Can Affect Your Baby More Than You Know }

The tricky part about epigenetics is how, well, tricky the delicate process can be. With so much high-level cell-to-cell communication going on and critical decisions made by the cells like, should I become a cancerous cell today?, the process is literally at risk of being disturbed on a second-to-second basis. 

And nowhere is that process more involved — and more at risk — than during pregnancy.

In the article, Susan Kay Murphy, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University School of Medicine, explained just how important even the first weeks of pregnancy are.

“The first week or so after conception appears to be a particularly vulnerable time where environmental influences can directly affect an epigenetic outcome,” she says in the NPR piece. 

Murphy's research is based on the work she has done with mice–looking how a pregnant mouse's offspring are affected when she is exposed to certain chemicals and hormones during fetal development. 

For instance, exposing a pregnant mouse to just one certain chemical during her pregnancy altered the genetic make-up of her offspring so much that it turned a gene on in them that turned their fur bright yellow. 

Other chemicals have been shown to alter the “fullness” gene in mice, turning their offspring into mice that can eat non-stop without feeling full, making them susceptible to obesity and diabetes. 

ADVERTISEMENT

In addition to the crazy changes that chemical exposure can bring about in a baby's development during pregnancy is the troubling fact that those changes may not occur until much later in a child's life. 

“The things that affect development very early in life can show up decades later,” Murphy said. She speculates that a woman's health choices during pregnancy, along with what chemicals, toxins, or different environmental triggers she is exposed to, can affect everything from a child's risk of autism to how well he or she does in school. 

And honestly, while I appreciate studies like the ones Murphy is doing and I make a point of following the latest health information and medical developments for pregnancy (I am an OB nurse, after all), part of me just wants to say …

There is just so, so much pressure on us as moms. From literally the air we breathe during pregnancy to what we eat to if we decide to breastfeed; it can be so overwhelming to live with the kind of pressure and expectation driven by the mentality that every last thing we do affects our child's health forever and ever. 

Where does it end?

There is just so, so much pressure on us as moms. From literally the air we breathe during pregnancy to what we eat to if we decide to breastfeed; it can be so overwhelming to live with the kind of pressure and expectation driven by the mentality that every last thing we do affects our child's health forever and ever. 

I'm all for more studies to help us discover some of the causes of childhood diseases and the rise of autism is especially troubling. But lest we get lost in the frenzy of studies and the importance of doing everything right during pregnancy, just keep in mind–

No matter what we do or how hard we try, sometimes there will be things out of our control. 

And that's not bad parenting. 

That's just life. And a lesson that all of us–moms, dads, children and all–can take with us. Forever. 

What do you think?

How Your Pregnancy Affects Your Child’s Health … Forever

Chaunie Brusie is a writer, mom of four, and founder of The Stay Strong Mom, a community + gift box service for moms after loss. ... More

Tell us what you think!

2 comments

  1. mommy nhoj says:

    I have to agree with the author that there are things beyond our control. I had some health complications during pregnancy but I am thankful that so far my baby is doing well and healthy.

  2. Flo says:

    Very interesting, this is some good info to know

Advertisement
[x]
×

EverydayFamily.com Week-by-Week Newsletter

Receive weekly updates on your pregnancy or new baby’s development as well as Free Stuff, Special Offers, Product Samples, Coupons, Checklists and Tools you can use today, and more from EverydayFamily! Plus all new members are entered to win FREE diapers for a year! Receive weekly updates on your pregnancy or new baby’s development as well as Free Stuff, Special Offers, Product Samples, Coupons, Checklists and Tools you can use today, and more from EverydayFamily! Plus all new members are entered to win FREE diapers for a year!

Due Date or Baby's Birth Date


By clicking the "Join Now" button you are agreeing to the terms of use and privacy policy.

Send this to a friend