Early pregnancy is so important for child development

Carolyn Moynihan
19 Apr 2011
Reproduced with Permission

The New Zealand Herald print edition today has a large photo of the unborn child -- early gestation -- on the front page. It's a rare event but nice to see in a country where the abortion rate (21 per 1000 known pregnancies) is as high as in the US or Australia. But the picture has nothing to do with status of the child as such.

The story is about research involving New Zealand scientists which shows "for the first time" that what a mother eats and drinks during her pregnancy can alter her child's DNA and make him or her susceptible to obesity during childhood. Among the 300 children studied, 25 per cent showed a change in their DNA caused by their mother's diet during pregnancy. Low carbohydrate intake was the key factor but contributing factors have yet to be identified.

Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, of the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland who aided the study, told the Herald:

"The study demonstrates the importance of developmental factors before birth in the pathway to childhood obesity -- and we already know that childhood obesity is an important predictor of later diabetes and heart disease," he said.

"It does imply that attention to mothers' health and nutritional status early in pregnancy is very important, to get the best for your baby.

"We have to start focusing more on the help of mothers ... otherwise we will never tackle this epidemic completely."

Notice the importance of what happens in "early pregnancy" for the proper development of the child. How contradictory and sad that the development of one child at this stage is of critical concern while the very life of another is considered disposable.

If health professionals and others "started focusing more on the help of mothers" who are distressed by the very fact that they are pregnant we would see fewer of them rejecting their babies. We might even see a better effort all round towards protecting the development of the child in the womb.

If you haven't looked at Lennart Nilsson's pictures of the unborn child for a while, here is a selection on the London Telegraph website.