Preparing for Pregnancy: Epigenetics and Your Baby

If you are planning for a family sometime in the future, you might be interested to know that your choices today can affect the genes of your unborn baby. A new concept called “epigenetics” is empowering parents and can have a profound impact on the health of our offspring1.

Let me explain more: We’re all aware that we inherit our genes from our parents, but research is now showing that the selection of which specific genes are chosen can be influenced by food (nutritional epigenetics),2 as well as by our exposure to toxins and stressors (environmental epigenetics). And it’s not just for the mother’s genes. Fathers can also influence genetic inheritance!

Here are three ways you and your partner can positively impact on this selection:

1. Nutrition3

Food has two important roles: providing the building blocks to grow your baby and assisting in selecting which genes are inherited.

  • Vegetables: Try to include all the colours of the rainbow (greens from leafy veggies, orange from carrots and pumpkin, red from tomatoes and capsicum, purple from eggplants and beetroot and so on). Aim to 5 serves per day but don’t worry if you’re not there yet, start with 1 or 2 and see how you feel.
  • Fruits: Aim for 2 serves per day to provide antioxidants and vitamins essential for your body.
  • Protein: Choose either animal and plant based proteins. The best choices are grass fed and organic (if possible) animals, fish (preferable small fish as the mercury content is lower), eggs (free range/organic), legumes like beans and lentils.
  • Carbohydrates: Aim for the least processed options, like root vegetables and sprouted grains, rather than highly processed ones like packet foods.
  • Fats: These are the building blocks for our hormones (necessary for reproduction), our brains and the walls of our cells. Best to choose unrefined fats found in nuts, seeds, olive oil, oily fish, butter and eggs.

Be sure to talk to your health practitioner about whether a pre-natal vitamin is right for you. Look for the following micronutrients, as deficiency during pregnancy has been proven to lead to unfavourable outcomes: folic acid, iodine, zinc, iron.

2. Exercise

Maintaining a healthy weight will improve your fertility and prevent complications during pregnancy. If you’re struggling with incorporating exercise into your life, speak to your doctor or exercise physiologist about the best exercises to include during pregnancy.

3. Environmental Exposure

There is emerging evidence that environmental exposure to chemicals and toxins has a negative impact in fertility of men and women as well as the future health of their child. For example, exposure to phenols, like Bisphenol-A (BPA) in plastics and canned food linings, triclosan, an antibacterial component in soaps and parabens in personal care products have been associated with recurrent miscarriages in women and aggression and hyperactivity in children5.

We probably don’t need to remind you to avoid alcohol and smoking, but you might also want to consider switching to non-toxic cleaning products, choosing organic or toxin-free personal care products, and avoiding renovations and pest extermination.For more information regarding this there is an excellent book called “Healthy House, Healthy Family”, by Nicole Bijlsma, which you can purchase at Invitation To Health.

Also, remember to have a regular dental check up as periodontal disease can disseminate toxins and create inflammation. This can negatively impact your fertility, as well as development of chronic diseases.6

Lastly, stress can also influence “epigenetic programming” for pregnancy,7 so try to figure out ways to enjoy, relax, de-stress as this will tell your body that it’s the perfect time for conception and support a relaxed pregnancy.

For more information about the right nutrition, exercise programme, safe use of supplements and early detection of health risks, book an appointment at Invitation to Health. We’d be thrilled to help you achieve good health and a positive outcome of your pregnancy.


1 Dennis C . Epigenetics and disease: altered states. Nature. 2003. 421: 686–688.

2 Lillycron KA, Burdgee GC (2011). The effect of nutrition during early life on the epigenetic regulation of transcription and implications for human diseases. J Nutrigenet Nutrigenomics 2011.4(5):248-60.

3 Gardiner, P.M, Nelson, L, Shellhaas, C.S, Dunlop, A.L, Long, R, Andrist, S & Jack, B.W. The clinical content of preconception care: nutrition and dietary supplements. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 2008:345-356

4 Weissgerber TL1, Wolfe LA, Davies GA, Mottola MF. Exercise in the prevention and treatment of maternal-fetal disease: a review of the literature. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2006:661-74

Wang A1, Padula A2, Sirota M3, Woodruff TJ (2016). Environmental influences on reproductive health: the importance of chemical exposures. Fertil Steril. 2016 Sep 15;106(4):905-29

Martelli ML, Brandi ML, Martelli M, Nobili P, Medico E, Martelli F. Periodontal disease and women’s health. Curr Med Res Opin. 2017 Jun;33(6):1005-1015

7 Vaiserman AM. Epigenetic programming by early-life stress: Evidence from human populations. Dev Dyn. 2015 Mar;244(3):254-65

Carolina Munoz


Carolina Munoz

Dr Munoz is an integrative doctor at Invitation to Health. She has a particular interest in women’s health, counselling and has completed Bio-Balance practitioner training with the Walsh Research Institute.

We are exposed to at least 140,000 chemicals, more than 30,000 of them in high volumes. We don't know how most of these chemicals individually affect our bodies and we have even less information on how they interact with each other or with medications we use. These chemicals are in your food and water, on your food, in the cleaning and skin care products you use and in your furnishings and household items.
“The first wealth is health” Ralph Waldo Emmerson

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