New research by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute has found an unborn baby adapts to the world it’s going to be born into by taking cues from its mother’s mental and physical states during pregnancy.
The amazing discovery is part of an Australian study into the importance of the first 1000 days – that’s the time from conception to age two. The First Thousand Days paper reveals that children are hugely impacted by their experiences, environment and diet as well as their parent’s health and lifestyle during pregnancy.
And these impacts can be positive or negative.
“Children need to feel calm, safe and protected. When this attachment process is interrupted, the child’s brain places an emphasis on developing neuronal pathways that are associated with survival, before developing those that are essential to future learning and growth,” explained lead author Dr Tim Moore.
Disadvantage passed down through the generations
Beyond brain development, immune, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular systems are also impacted. Incredibly, the study also found that children can only develop as well as their families and their broader community allow them to. Children’s biology actually changes in response to stress and poverty.
“Along with loving relationships, children need safe communities, secure housing, access to green spaces, environments free from toxins, and access to affordable, nutritious foods,” said Murdoch Children’s Research Institute Professor Frank Oberklaid.
While it’s not impossible to make improvements to help children as they get older, the research has highlighted just how critical those first 1000 days really are.
“We don’t want parents to feel like ‘what have I done’, it’s about encouraging everyone to think about the importance of this time period, and how the whole of society should consider this responsibility.”
For more amazing research coming out of Australia read about the vitamin discovered to be preventing miscarriages next.