Life In Womb Determines Adult Health

How Babies Are Ushered Into Life Determines How Healthily They Will Live As Adults, Book By Cornell Pregnancy Researcher Says

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Presenting the case that a lifetime of poor health -- from coronary artery disease and stroke to obesity and diabetes -- can start with poor conditions in the womb, Cornell University researcher and author Peter W. Nathanielsz, M.D., Ph.D., imagines three futuristic scenarios resulting from publication of his latest book, Life in the Womb: The Origin of Health and Disease (Promethean Press, 1999), which argues that adults may eventually suffer diseases of the heart, liver, pancreas and kidneys because those organs were incompletely formed during vulnerable periods of development in the womb:

-- Pregnant women will be encouraged to take better care of themselves and their unborn children by avoiding nicotine, alcohol and other drugs. Policy-makers and society at large will bolster the health of future generations by ensuring adequate prenatal care, removing undue stress about economic issues and providing better nutrition for women of child-bearing age.

-- Health insurers will require applicants to divulge their birth weight and hospitals will be required to record the weight of placentas.

-- Tort lawyers might develop a new legal specialty, encouraging children to sue their mothers for "sub-optimal" conditions in the womb.

Nathanielsz hopes that tort lawyers will ignore his book. But the Cornell professor of reproductive medicine wouldn't mind if pregnant women, policy-makers in government, the insurance industry and the general public heed the message from what, he says, is an emerging scientific consensus about "fetal programming" -- an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

According to the fetal programming theory (See "Ten Principles of Programming," attached.) , the developing fetus responds to nutritional and oxygen shortages by diverting precious resources to

Contact: Roger Segelken
Cornell University News Service

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