Where nature bumps into nurture

How did your mum’s diet in pregnancy affect you? It’s certainly not a new idea that conditions in the womb affect our health: we’ve known for decades, for instance, the harm that smoking in pregnancy can cause. More recently, the Barker revelations have shown how low birth weights are connected with the incidence of heart disease and diabetes 4 or 5 decades later.
And how does your grandfather’s health impact you today? Even more astounding are the results from recent studies that show how our mothers’ health when they were teenagers – and even the health of our grandfathers – influences our propensity to diseases like diabetes, heart conditions, obesity.

Today’s article ‘We are what our mums ate‘ by David Derbyshire in the Observer explores the incredible power of nurture, lifestyle and environment to alter the expression of genes: ” … there are now documented environmental effects in one generation that appear to be passed down to future generations. What could explain such a muddle of nature and nurture?” He goes on to give an easy to understand precis of the new science of epigenetics:”It is the study of the layer of chemical switches and signals that activate, silence and crank up our genes. It is where nature bumps into nurture.”

Recent findings, showing how lifestyle and environment can have effects 2 or 3 generations down the line, have emerged from a clinical geneticist in London and a preventative health specialist in Sweden. And that is what now lies before us: as more information comes to light  we, as parents are faced with some new and indisputable truths, and some choices. What we do now for our children – before conception, through pregnancy, and in their first two years, while their nervous, immune and hormonal systems are in their most intense phase of development – will affect not only their future, but also the futures of their children and grandchildren. We have choices at every turn, about nutrition, stress levels, fitness, and the relationships we choose to be in (and whether they support us).

Babiesknow is certainly taking the long view: while we focus on helping families feel good and enjoy good relationships, we also know how powerful prevention can be. If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the future is in your hands; if you have teenagers, look after them: the future is in their hands! And we always consider the bigger picture – unlike any other parenting course we take our participants on a journey back through their ancestry. Because when you know what’s behind you, you have a choice about what’s ahead.