Inside the womb, the baby is solely dependent on his mother to grow stronger everyday and finally come into the world. But scientists from the Southampton University believe that it is these nine months and the next two years of a child’s life that really determine his entire life’s health issues including probability of heart problems and diabetes.
Professor David Barker and his colleagues at Southampton University have put forward a theory after decades of research that says that any child’s health is governed by the first 1000 days of his life. This includes the period he/she spends in the womb and the first two years.
The scientists believe that this period can determine how the child’s health will be in future even as an adult. It can affect the chances of the child’s developing diabetes, having heart problems, his weight and even life expectancy.
The team says that right from conception there are some critical stages in a baby’s life when conditions have to be perfect for development. If not, then the baby’s health is affected later.
Poor nutrition during pregnancy affects not only the weight of the baby but also how well the placenta works. Smoking, stress, alcohol, drugs, all have an effect during this time and also later in the life of the child.
Prof. Baker says that lighter babies are more prone to heart diseases. On average, a baby weighing less than 5lb 7oz is twice as likely to die from a heart attack than one born at 9lb 7oz. This is because when food is scarce in the womb, it is channelled to the brain leaving the heart weakened.
Seeds of diabetes may also be sowed at this point of a baby’s life as the pancreatic cells that make insulin develop inside the womb.
The professor said that pregnancy is an important time when everything a mother does affects the baby and the affects are set in stone that cannot be undone. It is therefore important that women eat healthy all their lives.
“It is about building a body that the baby can live off. The baby lives off the mother’s body – not what she snacks on during pregnancy,” he stressed. “What we are seeing is a window of opportunity where we can make better people.”
The research is yet another proof that right from the time of conception, mother’s need to give their baby a healthy start in life.
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