Even before conceiving a child, a parents’ exposure to stressful environmental factors can alter gene expression, cell locations or cell numbers, ultimately influencing the health of the child who inherits those genes. Environmental stressors – psychological stress, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, malnutrition – might cause detrimental ‘epigenetic reprogramming’ that is passed down through DNA. As a result, early developmental processes are altered, putting the child at risk of cognitive impairment, diabetes, obesity and metabolic disorders in later life.
The Need For New Research
Previous studies have mainly focused on how child development is affected by exposure to environmental stressors during pregnancy and early childhood. One of the authors, Philippe Grandjean, MD, PhD, Professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Southern Denmark and Adjunct Professor of Environmental Health at the Harvard T.H.Chan School of Public Health, highlighted the importance of stress factors encountered by parents even before the conception of a child.
According to the researchers, currently existed regulatory agencies are not focusing on the non-linear impact of certain chemicals. A low level exposure of such chemicals could also have side effects on parents wanting to have a child.
“Unfortunately, the currently existing paradigms do not effectively assess the impact of risk factors during vulnerable exposure windows. Without revising our policies and guidelines, we cannot have a universal healthy start for children”, he stated.
Key Findings Of The Article: Disturbs Child Birth
The new findings, published in the Endocrine Society‘s journal Endocrinology, summarize key discoveries from the 4th Conference on Prenatal Programming and Toxicity (PPTOX IV) in October 2014. The conference featured various oral and poster presentations representing the impact of physical, chemical and biological stressors on the interrelated endocrine, nervous and immune systems.
The presentations emphasized that exposure to environmental stressors during preconception – in males and females – is a susceptible developmental window. Moreover, the conference highlighted the significance of understanding ‘placental function’ – how modifications in placental status affect fetal growth and development. Exposure to ‘mixed stress’ was discussed as well.