Parents’ life experiences and dietary habits before conception are encoded into egg and sperm and projected into the very existence of their child, influencing the child’s habits, health and ability to adapt later in life. Parenting essentially begins before conception, according to new research coming from the University of Adelaide. The lifestyle choices of the generation before are imprinted into the up-and-coming generation. In a way, children are preprogrammed before conception by the environmental factors that affect their parents. In a way, it’s as if children are already being thought of and created before egg and sperm even meet.
“Many things we do in the lead up to conceiving is having an impact on the future development of the child – from the age of the parents, to poor diet, obesity, smoking and many other factors, all of which influence environmental signals transmitted into the embryo,” said Professor Sarah Robertson, Director of the University’s Robinson Research Institute.
When egg and sperm meet, there’s more than just DNA being passed on
The University of Adelaide researchers found that children’s destiny of health and well-being is programmed before they are even conceived in the womb. The researchers aren’t talking about genetic predisposition. It’s as if parental decisions before pregnancy project a certain kind of energy into the lives of their future children. It’s as if the child is more than just a part of their parents — they are a piece of their parent’s history spiraling out into the future.
“People used to think that it didn’t matter, because a child represented a new beginning, with a fresh start. The reality is, we can now say with great certainty that the child doesn’t quite start from scratch – they already carry over a legacy of factors from their parents’ experiences that can shape development in the fetus and after birth. Depending on the situation, we can give our children a burden before they’ve even started life,” Professor Robertson says
The findings were published in a recent issue of the top international journal Science, and featured as “Parenting from before conception,” which represents a new frontier for developmental and reproductive research.
What they found was that egg and sperm bring more than just genetic material together to create a child. The paper revealed that there are stored environmental factors in the parents’ egg and sperm that also contribute to the development of the child. They found that health problems such as diabetes, heart issues and immune disorders in children can originate from the lifestyle of the parents in the months before conception. And it isn’t just the mother’s behaviors that play a role. The man’s dietary habits, whether poor or positive, are also recorded in his sperm and are projected into the child along with his genetic material.
This is how the human species survives through evolutionary changes between generations
What the study comes down to is the need of each generation to adapt to their changing environment. Epigenetic factors are passed to a baby so the new generation can survive through the evolutionary changes taking place in their environment. Three months before conception, the sperm and eggs are collecting information from the parents’ experiences and environment, encoding it.
If famine is part of the parents’ history, that experience is encoded into the parents’ sperm and eggs. The life conceived from this condition grows up and is able to cope with less food later in life. Their metabolic system is hardwired from the start by their parent’s experiences and decisions. If the child ate normal amounts of food, their body might respond by developing metabolic diseases like diabetes, because the child was programmed from the start to eat less. On the other hand, if the two parents were overeaters before they conceived, then their child’s body will likely expect lots of food later in life or health problems could result.
Professor Robinson brings hope to expecting parents, encouraging healthy lifestyles leading up to conception: “A few lifestyle changes by potential parents and improvements in the right direction, especially in the months leading up to conception, could have a lasting, positive benefit for the future of their child.”
Sources for this article include:
- The Consequences of a Poor Diet Could Epigenetically Persist Despite Improving Eating Habits
- Scientist says sperm counts are dropping so low that human reproduction may soon be a thing of the past
- High Sugar Diet May Epigenetically Affect Sperm Quality
- Father’s Exposure to Phthalates Impact Epigenetic Marks on Sperm DNA