Influences on the neurological development of a fetus and the outcome of a pregnancy can reach back five generations, Dr. Jamie McGregor says. But Thursday, he'll concentrate mainly on how a mother's behavior influences the development of her unborn child's brain.
McGregor's message - to be delivered at a forum sponsored by A Bump in the Road - is: "You are what you eat," which is passé. In reality, you are what your mother ate when you were in the womb and when she was breast-feeding you.
A Bump in the Road is a resource, educational and support group created by Brenda Armstrong, who's having her first child in September. She started Bump to bring together women like her who feel lost and alone on the path to motherhood. Bump is part of a national movement called centering that brings together pregnant women to share information, concerns, solutions and experiences. The San Juan Basin Health Department also sponsors centering classes.
McGregor, who lives in Durango, is an obstetrician/gynecologist and professor at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. He earned his degree in medicine at McGill University in Montreal and was a fetal /maternal specialist at the University of Colorado. McGregor worked at Planned Parenthood in Durango in 2000.
McGregor wants to increase awareness and change the attitude of potential mothers, soon-to-be-mothers and new mothers regarding the importance of their role in fetal brain development. He quoted a 1999 article in which physicians Paul Plsek and C.M. Kilo said, "Change is not so much about overcoming resistance, as it is about creating attraction."
Neurological development covers learning ability, behavior, psycho-social skills, attention span, anxiety level and temperament.
Timing is important, McGregor said in a recent interview. A woman ideally should have her children between the ages of 18 and 42. But no matter at what age pregnancy occurs, nutrition and abstention from drugs, alcohol and tobacco are paramount to the healthy development of a fetus and postpartum life.
Everything a mother ingests - good or bad - can affect the neurological development of her fetus and carries over to her newborn child. Influences can be measured by how much they add to or subtract from the IQ. Studies show, for example, that smoking can cause a child to lose as many as 4 points of IQ; in the other direction, breast feeding can add as many as 9 points to the IQ.
Prenatal nutrition of the mother and paternal involvement is important, McGregor said. For example:
- One percent of the population is thyroid-deficient.
- Sixty-five percent of the population is deficient in Vitamin D, with the level in African-Americans reaching 80 to 90 percent.
- Intake of omega 3 fats found in marine and vegetable sources is suggested. The expectant mother should eat three servings of low-mercury ocean fish a week.
- Breast-feeding lowers the incidence of infection, diarrhea and even death.
- Studies oneikyo (womb learning), pioneered in Japan, suggest a fetus responds to talking, reading aloud or playing music because they can hear after 20 weeks.