Apparently, what your grandmother ate while she was pregnant with your mother could have affected your birth weight. And what your mother ate while she was pregnant with you could affect your own children. And what you ate when you were a kid can also affect your own babies, maybe even more than what you eat while you are actually pregnant.
According to a study that involved over 3,000 women in the Philippines, “a mother’s nutrition while she was in the womb herself and during her infancy may play a greater role in the birth weight of her babies than what she eats as an adult or during pregnancy.”
Wow. And kinda…WTF. Dr. Christopher Kuzawa of Northwestern University presented the findings to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, saying:
“Our findings add to the growing evidence that a baby’s birthweight is linked to the nutrition that her mother experienced as an infant or young child. [There is] quite a bit of converging evidence that the quantity of calories you consume during pregnancy does not have a big effect on the baby. It is more about pre-pregnancy nutrition and nutrition during early development. The mother’s infancy nutrition and the grandmother’s pregnancy nutrition both predicted birth weight in offspring of the mothers.”
“The fetus’s experiences during those nine months are akin to ‘memories’ of the mother’s past nutrition and health, rather than cues of what she is eating during pregnancy.”
The study also placed a high importance on the mother’s own diet during her infancy and childhood. So basically, the food you ate when you were a child might have a greater affect on your fetus than the food you eat while you’re actually gestating that fetus. Crazy, right?
While there’s nothing you can do now about what your grandmother or mother ate (or what you ate as a child), I kind of see that as a good thing, at least in relation to our society’s hyper vigilance towards pregnant women. I’m not saying go ahead and eat like a pig while you’re pregnant, but knowing that just maybe not all of the responsibility for growing a healthy human is directly correlated to what you put into your body might help diffuse some of the guilt that women feel if they don’t have the most perfect pregnancy ever.
Kuzawa also said that the findings were preliminary, using a sample of mothers around the age of 21 who self-reported on their own birth weights and dietary intake. So, this new information isn’t necessarily set in stone and it’s certainly not a free rein to go crazy on junk food and bisphenol while you’re pregnant. But if it provides a clearer picture of the apparently myriad factors that contribute to babies’ birth weights—and helps us learn that individual women are not necessarily terrible, neglectful, selfish mothers if they have a low birth weight baby—I think that’s a good thing.