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How Your Prenatal Health Shapes Your Baby’s Life

Mysteries have always surrounded the creation of new life. From two humans, a new one; from a woman's body, nourishment for a zygote, an embryo, a fetus, a newborn.

Every woman knows that how she takes care of herself during the months she's pregnant helps make a healthy baby. But now scientists are finding that prenatal and early-infancy influences may have a lifetime impact. "Genes are very important, but there's a whole new realm of research showing that experiences before birth can also shape health in a significant, long-standing way," says Lise Eliot, Ph.D., assistant professor of neuroscience at the Chicago Medical School.

New questions uncover new mysteries. Does a pregnant woman's behavior -- what she eats, whether she exercises, how she manages stress -- have permanent effects on her future baby? When sperm breaches egg, a genetic blueprint is written, but how that house is built greatly influences who the new person will be. It all begins before birth.