By Jacqueline Howard, CNN
Many moms-to-be know that their health even before they become pregnant — known as pre-conception health — can affect the health of their babies.
Now, research is continuing to show that the pre-conception health of fathers also can influence a pregnancy and the baby.
Three papers published Monday in the journal The Lancet detail how the health of both women and men, before they even conceive a child, can have profound impacts on the health of their offspring — such as birth weight and brain development.
“This is a really important series, and it is important because it helps further re-establish the importance of pre-conception care as a legitimate direction for improving birth outcomes and improving health in children, both at the time of birth but also over their life course,” said Milton Kotelchuck, professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital, who was not involved in the new papers.
“Really, almost all of the important epigenetics, all the important embryologic development, takes place in the first few weeks of the pregnancy. That’s when lots of the really key things are happening before people even know they’re pregnant,” he said. “Your brain development, your entire spine, all the nerves are developed in the first couple of weeks.”