Ten Facts That You May not Know about Pregnancy (part one)

Pregnant women are known to be more susceptible to varieties of factors like diets, environment and diseases, etc. According to recent research findings, many improper behaviors of pregnant women may exert certain influence on their coming babies. So what should women pay attention to during pregnancy? Let’s explore them one by one.

1. Maternal high-fat diet may increase offspring risk for liver disease

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, caused by fat building up in the liver, is now the most common chronic liver disease diagnosed in adults and children. Although the disease is linked with obesity, scientists don’t fully understand why some people develop it while others don’t. Accordingly to findings from a mouse study, exposure to a high-fat diet in the womb shortly before giving birth may change the liver of its offspring in a way that promotes more rapid progression of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease later in their lives.

Michael Thompson, PhD & pediatric endocrinology fellow at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, has presented the new research at the American Society for Investigative Pathology 2017 annual meeting.

Complications of obesity are a significant cost burden for the medical system, especially given the prevalence of obesity,” said Thompson. “Understanding how maternal exposures impact obesity-related diseases such as the above-mentioned nonalcoholic fatty liver disease will allow us to develop lower cost preventative therapies to utilize up front rather than awaiting complications down the road.”

In the new study, the researchers found that the offspring of pregnant mice that consumed a high-fat diet developed liver fibrosis, a type of tissue scarring signaling that more serious disease will develop. Even the adoption of a low-fat diet after maternal high-fat diet exposure won’t deduce their risks of suffering this disease. The livers of these mice also had signs of fat accumulation and inflammation.

2. Can women drink alcohol during pregnancy?

Recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention update recommends that women who are pregnant or could become pregnant abstain from alcohol use. This has prompted a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and her team to explore the patterns of alcohol use in early pregnancy.

Expecting all women who might be or could become pregnant to refrain from alcohol use is not a realistic public health policy, asserts Katherine Hartmann, M.D., Ph.D., Deputy Director of The Institute for Medicine and Public Health at Vanderbilt and the senior author of a study recently published in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The good news is that women were already self-regulating their alcohol use. Related findings suggests that promoting early pregnancy awareness could prove to be more effective than promoting abstinence from alcohol among all who could conceive.

3. Unhealthy diet during pregnancy could be linked to ADHD

A new research has found that a high-fat, high-sugar diet may cause ADHD in children in their early years.

As explained, early onset conduct problems (like lying, fighting) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are the leading causes of child mental health referral in the UK. These two disorders tend to occur along with each other, since more than 40% of children with a diagnosis of conduct disorder are also diagnosed with of ADHD). The causes can be traced back to very similar prenatal experiences such as maternal distress or poor nutrition.

In this new study of participants from the Bristol-based ‘Children of the 90s’ cohort, 83 children with early-onset conduct problems were compared with 81 children who had low levels of conduct problems. The researchers assessed how the mothers’ nutrition affected epigenetic changes (or DNA methylation) of IGF2, a gene involved in fetal development and the brain development of areas implicated in ADHD – the cerebellum and hippocampus. Notably, DNA methylation of IGF2 had previously been found in children of mothers who were exposed to famine in the Netherlands during World War II.

4. Exposure to particulatepollution during pregnancy increases asthma susceptibility forthree generations

According to a study published in the American Journal of Physiology — Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, exposure to environmental pollutants during pregnancy may increase the risk of asthma for as many as three consecutive generations.

Researchers studied three generations of mice born to mothers that were exposed to either diesel exhaust particles or urban air particle concentrate during pregnancy. All generations descended from mothers exposed to diesel exhaust particles had an abnormal increase in a type of immune cell – a common marker for allergy. Also, offspring of pollutant-exposed ancestors showed elevated levels of interleukin proteins involved in regulating the immune system, which are a marker of asthma risk.

Environmental pollutant exposure before birth caused epigenetic changes in the offspring’s DNA that affect how genetic code is used, namely DNA methylation. The researchers found that atypical DNA methylation led to transgenerational asthma risk because of abnormal changes in a type of immune cell called dendritic cells, which play a key role in the development of asthma in early life.

5. Drinking alcohol while pregnant could have transgenerational effects

Mothers-to be are often warned not to drink while being pregnant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has repeatedly voiced the dangers of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, among which the biggest one is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) in newborns.

In spite of the above facts, many women still drink during pregnancy. Today, there is a new reason why it’s necessary for an expectant mother to put down that glass of wine – drinking alcohol during pregnancy will not only affect their coming babies, but may also impact brain development and lead to adverse outcomes in her future grand- and even great-grandchildren.

This new finding was already published in the journal Cerebral Cortex titled “Prenatal Ethanol Exposure and Neocortical Development: A Transgenerational Model of FASD” by Kelly Huffman, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside.