The first 1000 days can determine a child’s future

Nine months in the womb and the first two years of life are vital to long-term health development, says report

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Every parent wants to give their child the best start in life and growing research suggests this is determined sooner than you might think.

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A study, developed after decades of research by Professor David Barker and his team at Southampton University, has found that a baby’s period in the womb can permanently affect everything from a child’s chances of developing diabetes or having a heart attack in old age, to their future weight and life expectancy.

Professor Barker believes that a pregnant mothers diet affects both the unborn baby’s weight and how well the placenta works, while other poor lifestyle choices such as smoking, stress, drugs and alcohol can significantly take their toll.

It is thought that when food is in short supply or of poor nourishment in the womb, the baby’s vital organs such as the heart can be weakened and the odds of developing diabetes made higher.

The study has also revealed that the lighter weight babies at birth were more likely to have heart attack in their later 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. What we are seeing is a window of opportunity where we can make better people,” Professor David said.

How can you help during pregnancy?

  • Don’t drink alcohol
  • Don’t smoke or take drugs– and that applies to dad too
  • Try to get down to your ideal weight before conception
  • Avoid stress and take folic acid daily from when you start trying for a family
  • Take regular gentle exercise
  • Eat a healthy, nutritious diet and do your best to limit sugary foods. Do not over eat. Eating for two is a myth, a pregnant woman only needs about 200 extra calories a day.

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