Committee Room 3, Hendon Town Hall, The Burroughs, Hendon, London, NW4 4BT
'Prenatal parenting' seems a contradictio in terminis. In humans however parenting starts way before child birth. Intra-uterine conditions are crucial for the development of the foetus and determine whether the newborn experiences a head start or is already delayed in its neurobiological and psychological development.
This is not unlike pre-birth development in rodents as Michael Meaney and his team have documented in detail. Quite some evidence shows that prenatal conditions indeed are associated with later psychosocial and cognitive development.
But how prenatal parenting - for better and for worse - affects the child's development after birth still is a puzzle to be solved. Epigenetic changes, in particular changes in methylation, might be an important piece of this puzzle.
The Dutch Hunger Winter Study provided some insight in the profound epigenetic programming taking place in the first trimester after conception when conception took place in the most severe period of famine.
In Generation R, a cohort study following 10,000 Rotterdam families from mother's pregnancy into child's puberty, we measured several prenatal maternal behaviors, problems and stress factors that might influence methylation patterns assessed in cord blood of the newborn. Epigenome-wide analyses as well as analyses targeting candidate loci may shed some light on prenatal parenting leaving its marks on the neurobiology of the newborn.