Fetal Programming

Image Source – Flickr Creative Commons. Image by katietegtmeyer

Pre pregnancy and pregnancy are the founding stages for the baby’s entire life. By carefully planning diet, physical activity and positive mindset can help give a strong and healthy foundation and positive long term effects for your baby’s life in almost every aspect. This has been a known fact since centuries, but the focus was more on short term benefits. Studies show that nutrition and development during pregnancy and early years can have lasting effects on a child’s health and risk of developing diseases during adulthood.

This hypothesis originated with Barker’s study in Britain’s Hertfordshire area in the 1980’s. The study revealed that men born in the early 1900’s with low birth weight were showing increased number of deaths from heart disease. Their bodies had developed a mechanism to store more fat because of low nutrition during the early years of their lives. An affluent lifestyle and having rich food backfired as their bodies were programmed to store more fat. This study generated a new perspective about nutrition during pregnancy and early years that can program a child’s metabolism for the rest of his/her life.

A mother’s body is the ONLY resource of nutrients for the growing fetus. Even before a woman notices her pregnancy, the fetus already develops the basic cell structures that would eventually develop into different body systems and organs during pregnancy. Therefore, pre pregnancy nutrition is very important to give a good start to pregnancy. The most important nutrient is folic acid which is required for development of the baby just after the fetus begins developing.

Different organs and body systems of the baby develop at different rates during pregnancy. For example, development of bones and muscles occurs during the second trimester stage of pregnancy, whereas the primitive growth of nervous system, development of heart and blood vessels occurs in the first few weeks of pregnancy. The primitive form of all major organ systems of the fetus appear during the first trimester. Deficiency of important nutrients during first trimester of pregnancy can affect the development of fundamental structure of the developing baby, which can have a long term effect on the baby’s life.

If deficiency of a nutrient occurs, the fetal development shifts its focus towards more important organs like the nervous system, and other organs in need of the nutrient remain underdeveloped. Nutrients to the fetus are usually taken from daily diet intake of the mother, but if the diet lacks a particular nutrient, the fetus takes the nutrient from the mother’s body reserves (for example, low intake of calcium in diet leads to extraction of the same from the mother’s bones). Deficiency of a nutrient occurs when the mother’s body reserves also do not have sufficient amounts required for the baby’s development. This also affects the health of the mother.

Achieving good overall health before pregnancy, taking care of food and health during pregnancy, keeping a positive mindset, having good support, and having a healthy diet after baby’s birth helps a lot towards giving a good foundation for the baby’s development and also towards the mother’s health.

Please do read these posts and pages for more information on healthy diet before, during and after pregnancy. You might also like to read posts for pregnancy month by month which include do’s and don’ts for every month of pregnancy.

References:

Healthy Eating During Pregnancy by W. Allan Walker, M.D.


I am a mother of a 6 year old. My life's experiences and the desire to be a better parent inspired me to create SmartMomz. It has been a great learning experience and I am still learning something new everyday, which is amazing! Building SmartMomz has helped me understand much more about motherhood and about myself as a mother. I am a geek mom with great interest in design, technology and gadgets.

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