Staying Fit Through Pregnancy, Part (3) Three: DIET – Fetal Programming (for a healthy baby)

13. Jodi with her two boys

What You Eat While Pregnant Determines If Your Child Will Be Obese or Athletic.

 In my healthy pregnancy series part one and two, we exhausted why exercise is so important for a pregnant mother, so what about nutrition? Many think that it is okay to eat junk, for all they have to do is pop  a prenatal vitamin  and their baby is all set…WRONG.  Studies reveal that your pregnancy diet actually creates and forms the genes for your baby now and influences the baby all the way into adulthood! GULP!  Promoting optimal nutrition will not only ensure optimal fetal development, but will also reduce the risk of your child developing chronic diseases into adulthood.


What Not to Eat

Fetal Programming


 Back in 2010 TIME Magazine featured an article revealing:

The nutrition you received in the womb; the pollutants, drugs and infections you were exposed to during gestation; your mother’s health and state of mind while she was pregnant with you — all these factors shaped you as a baby and continue to affect you to this day.

A pregnancy diet full of sugar, processed, low protein, “junk” foods can predispose your baby to metabolic, endocrine, and cardiovascular diseases in adult life.

Nutrition, as it turns out, is the major environmental factor that alters expression of the fetal genome and may have lifelong consequences for your baby, permanently changing the structure, physiology, and metabolism, a phenomenon referred to as “fetal origins of adult disease.”

As a mom, you hold the key in early preventive interventions.  Extensive epidemiological and experimental evidence indicates that babies born to mothers who ate poor diets during pregnancy and lactation, developed chronic diseases, including obesity and diabetes. The junk diet also negatively influenced the baby’s postnatal growth, food palate, physiology, triglycerides/cholesterol levels, and resistance to insulin.

If you eat a ton of sugar and junk, you are setting your baby up for metabolic disasters, like type 2 diabetes, obesity, and insulin resistance.


Researchers examined the effects of a westernized “junk food” diet using palatable processed foods rich in fat, sugar, and salt. This study shows that — compared to babies whose mothers ate nutritionally during pregnancy — a “junk food” diet in pregnancy and lactation contributes to the baby’s development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (in addition to obesity and insulin resistance). The babies also have reduced development of  lean muscle (which means less ability to exercise and less ability to generate force due to impaired muscle development) contributing to higher fat stores and obesity.  Most shockingly, the prenatal influence may be permanent as offspring of junk food/poor nutrition-fed mothers were still significantly less active compared with normal offspring in adulthood, even when the offspring started consuming a healthy diet after birth.


Overeating on “Good” Food Can Be Just as Harmful

Unfortunately, even overeating on your grass-fed meat and “paleo” desserts will make a negative difference. Calories add up, even from healthy meals that are overeaten. In this study, two groups of mothers were fed the exact same food except one group was overfed. The mothers who overate during pregnancy had babies who were more susceptible to weight gain and body fat in later years compared to the offspring of mothers who did not overeat.  When the offspring were exposed to excessive calories either prenatally, postnatally, both, or never, offspring with prenatal-only exposure were fatter and had higher adult body weights and blood pressure than those without any exposure, but offspring that were exposed to excessive calories throughout had the riskiest outcomes, including the highest levels of fat stores and insulin problems, showing the greatest body mass and highest blood pressure, as well as carrying these symptoms into adulthood.


You Are Setting Yourself  up for Disaster

Not only does junk food and overeating set your baby up for a lifetime of metabolic struggles, but it is also equally as bad for you! It causes you to be more susceptible to

  • gain excessive weight
  • diabetes
  • miscarriage
  • pre-eclampsia
  • high-risk delivery
  • longer and more difficult delivery
  • greater risk of Cesarean section and forceps
  • less mobile, a greater need for general anaesthesia, which can result in a need for more pain-relieving drugs during labor
  • higher post-delivery bleeding
  • slower wound healing
  • more blood clots
  • a greater likelihood of death.

Thus, all the more reason to give our babies a strong, healthy foundation and future life, by ourselves eating a strong healthy diet for them.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop here either. Find out in my next post how your pregnancy diet can affect your kids’ future food options as well.

Next post:

Staying Fit Through Pregnancy,Part Four: DIET –Fetal Programming (for future healthy kid eaters)


 Photo Credits: Tamarindo Family Photos

About jodirund

Jodi is a certified personal trainer, a certified fitness nutrition specialist, and combat veteran who can help you achieve success. -West Palm Beach Florida

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