Food and nutrition are hot topics during pregnancy as they have a major impact on both the health of the mother and the development of the growing baby. It’s an area fraught with confusion and often contradictory advice with many women not knowing what to do – common confusions include “fish is good for Omega-3s, but what about the high levels of mercury in some fish?” or “I’ve been told to take Iron supplements, but they are making me feel sick”.

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Pregnancy is a time where women’s diets often change for the better as eating a nutritious diet during pregnancy is well-known to be linked to good fetal brain development, a healthy birth weight, and reduces the risk of some birth defects like neural tube defects.

But how many times have you heard a woman mention that she is eating healthier because she is going to try to get pregnant? New research suggests that the mother’s diet during the first 1000 days, from pre-conception until the baby’s second birthday, is crucial as epigenetic programming during this time determines the child’s genetic profile. There is a growing body of evidence showing that the mother’s diet and other lifestyle factors have the ability to affect offspring health through epigenetic programming, with methylation of the genome linked to dietary components such as Folate the key mechanism that switches genes on or off. This is important as many women are not achieving optimum nutrition before they become pregnant. For example, around 9 out of 10 women aren’t meeting their daily vegetable and grain serves which are important sources of key nutrients like Folate and B Vitamins for cellular function.

This means there is a need to focus on optimising nutrition both for pre-conception and pregnancy to achieve the best possible outcome, a healthy thriving baby and healthy mum.

Sources:

McGowan, P. O., Meaney, M. J., & Szyf, M. (2008). Diet and the epigenetic (re) programming of phenotypic differences in behavior.