– First trimester of pregnancy pinpointed as the most sensitive to environmental exposures such as excess maternal weight gain and poor nutrient intake leading to permanent health effects on the offspring – Dr Emily Oken, Associate Professor in the Department of Population Medicine at Harvard Medical School
– Need for better support and awareness for expectant mums called for at annual First 1000 Days medical symposium in order to drive change
– Pre-pregnancy weight far more influential than gestational weight gain for offspring – Professor Michael Turner, National Lead for the Health Services Executive Clinical Programme in Obstetrics and Gynaecology
At the annual First 1000 Days medical seminar, in association with the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute, internationally renowned researcher on the influence of nutrition during pregnancy, Dr Emily Oken from Harvard Medical School, discussed the long-term benefits of good nutrition during pregnancy.
Dr Emily Oken joined Professor Michael Turner, National Lead for the HSE clinical programme in obstetrics and gynaecology and Dr Aileen McGloin, Communications Manager for Digital and Health, Safefood to address almost 200 Irish healthcare professionals who attended the conference which is part of a programme designed to encourage behavioural change in the approach taken to early life nutrition in Ireland.
The first 1000 days of life, from conception up to 2 years of age, has been identified by medical experts as a unique ‘window of opportunity’ where getting nutrition right can have a profound and long-lasting impact on the health of an individual.
Harvard Medical School’s Associate Professor in the Department of Popular Medicine Dr Emily Oken discussed her latest research as part of Project Viva, an ongoing longitudinal pre-birth cohort study. Dr Oken provided some insights on the benefits of maternal oily fish consumption on offspring cognitive development and also pinpointed the first trimester of pregnancy as the most sensitive period of development.
Speaking at the event, Dr Emily Oken said, “Research shows that early life nutrition has a lifelong influence on the health of an individual. Most significantly, the nutrition a baby receives in the womb, during the first trimester in particular, has a lasting effect on their cognitive development and risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke in later life. Our research shows that moderate fish consumption during pregnancy showed no detrimental effects on the offspring and can actually benefit their language and visual motor skills in the early years of life.”
Also speaking at the event was Professor Michael Turner, National Lead for the HSE clinical programme in obstetrics and gynaecology. Professor Turner said, “The growing rate of obesity in Ireland amongst adults, children and infants is having a severe impact on contemporary obstetrics. We now know that a woman’s pre-pregnancy weight is far more influential than weight gained during pregnancy on her offspring and contributes to her chance of gestational diabetes, incidents of which have increased in Ireland threefold in the last 6 years. This is largely due to the fact that 1 in 6 women in Ireland are obese before they conceive and better screening compliance amongst obstetricians and GP’s. Gestational diabetes results in maternal and foetal complications and the need for obstetric intervention, all of which increase the cost.”
Commenting on the event and the importance of the First 1000 Days movement, Aileen Regan, Healthcare Nutrition Director, Danone Early Life Nutrition said, “Studies clearly illustrate the positive impact good nutrition can have on a child’s physical and cognitive growth and while awareness levels are growing in Ireland about early life nutrition, we need to encourage parents-to-be and new parents to take action and change their behaviours. Maternal obesity is one of the focuses at this year’s First 1000 Days seminar. The growing rate of maternal obesity is putting more babies at an increased risk of obesity as children and even in later life. The symposium is a great platform to discuss and debate this major problem as well as other aspects of nutrition in early life.”
Jennifer Feighan, CEO of the INDI who support the symposium said, “The INDI is delighted to be associated with the First 1000 Days movement and to be part of a campaign that encourages behavioural change amongst parents-to-be and new parents so that the future health of adults and children in Ireland can be improved.”
The First 1000 Days covers four key stages of development; pregnancy, breastfeeding, weaning and toddler. The 2015 symposium is centred on pregnancy and different nutritional aspects of pregnancy that have long-term effects on a baby’s health looked at a broad range of issues under these four stages which impact on the health outcomes of people in later life.
For more information about First 1000 Days;
- Join the movement on www.first1000days.ie
- Follow First 1000 Days on Twitter @First1000Days
- Find us on Facebook www.facebook/first1000daysireland