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Placental Health

February 28, 2014

The ecology of the womb can have lifelong health effects for the developing fetus.



Improving the fetal environment. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

It’s well known that pregnant women should eat well and avoid drinking and smoking to safeguard the health of the developing fetus. But biological anthropologist Julienne Rutherford, at the University of Illinois, Chicago, says there’s a lot more to it, both in terms of factors that can affect the child, and how enduring those effects can be.


The way the placenta links us to the maternal ecology that we develop in is crucial to not only to navigating that pregnancy and being born a healthy baby, but really on shaping our health trajectories into adulthood.


She says even factors beyond the mother’s control, like stress from racial discrimination, can lead to preterm birth and even diabetes and heart disease later on. Rutherford is studying the connections between the fetal environment and long term health to learn new ways to improve health outcomes. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.