Creating a Healthy Baby

 This article first appeared in St. Louis Kids magazine, January-February 2009.

Most of us may not realize it, but as a mother-to-be, you are the body-mind-spirit template for your developing baby in the womb. You are the single most important factor influencing your baby’s future healthy development.

Some moms feel empowered by this health fact, but many may feel overwhelmed by the thought alone. What’s important to realize is that you and your partner can choose to take creative responsibility for the conscious healthy design of your future child.  For example, it is very important before pregnancy, for a woman to improve and protect her general health and womb ecology, including the health of her eggs, womb. Many young women do not pay attention to their nutritional needs and have poor health habits. This is why gynecologists and other physicians advocate for pre-conception wellness and mental health check-ups.

What Science Tells Us About Prenatal Health

New scientific advances from the emerging field of prenatal programming tell us that there are primal origins of health and disease. The mother’s physical and mental health during pregnancy greatly influences her child’s health all the way through adulthood. These discoveries are based on world-wide epidemiological studies of health records, which show that prenatal conditions affect susceptibility to coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and infertility. The book, The Prenatal Prescription, by Peter Nathanielsz, Ph.D. summarizes these findings. This book also states the amazing fact that babies pass more biological milestones in the womb than during any other period of life! 

Research also indicates that there are gender differences in ways that babies respond to the pregnant mother’s maternal template. For example, girls appear to be much more susceptible to the effects of stress and maternal depression, which passes down to the next generation through the female line. Boys, for some reason, generally need more nutrients as they grow faster at all stages of prenatal development. There can be health consequences when either boys or girls have low birth weights. Each baby’s unique gestational history becomes stored and imprinted in cells and tissues to impact future health. 

For the first time in history we can actually see what is happening in the womb because new imaging tools provide maps of healthy intrauterine development. We now know that there are critical periods for development as different systems come online at different times. Less than optimal conditions, such as exposure to stress, at these critical periods can cause permanent effects to developing infant systems, or premature labor.

We are also learning that emotional factors affect the baby in utero.  According to Bruce Lipton Ph.D., a cellular biologist, a woman during pregnancy may perceive her environment as helpful or threatening, and that information gets communicated to the baby through neurochemicals passing through her placenta. This may influence gene expression and the baby’s physiological health. The baby in utero may go into protection mode versus growth mode, which can inhibit proper brain and body development.

 Prenatal and perinatal psychologists have also collected data from clinical studies that indicate babies are conscious in the womb and are psychologically impacted by negative thoughts and harmful circumstances.  David Chamberlain Ph.D.’s studies of birth memories reveal that adults can retain memories of not feeling wanted in the womb.  Thomas Verny M.D. and others have studied the negative psychological impact on infant development from prenatal stressors, which can form negative core beliefs in the child.        

How to Create Your Healthiest Pregnancy and Baby

Both parents-to-be, parents and health professionals need to be aware of all of the ways that a healthy pregnancy can build the foundation of the child’s health and optimal development. The first step for every woman is to plan consciously for her healthy pregnancy before she gets pregnant.

Here are some tips for creating a healthy baby by optimizing your health and nurturing your emotional well-being:

  • Eat natural and healthy foods.
  • Avoid cigarette smoking, alcohol and recreational drugs.
  • Take folic acid before and during pregnancy to avoid neural tube defects.
  • Avoid exposure to environmental toxins (bug spray, second hand smoke, etc.).
  • Reduce high levels of stress in your home and workplace.
  • Visualize a healthy womb space for baby that circulates positive emotional chemicals of love.
  • Get regular exercise that allows for flowing movements, such as prenatal dance, yoga and swimming.
  • Communicate to your baby that he or she is loved and wanted.
  • Discuss ways to reduce birthing traumas with your doctor.

Remember that there is no way to guarantee a healthy pregnancy and baby. Sometimes parents do everything right, and there are still challenges. Following these tips, however, will help you best meet the challenges of pregnancy while nurturing yourself and your child.

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