Keeping your growing baby healthy is a full-time job, and it starts before your little one is even born. During your pregnancy, you not only have to worry about keeping yourself fit and well-nourished, but your unborn child as well, and you may not realize that simple choices you make can potentially affect your child for years to come.
An international team of researchers recently published an article in the Lancet journal, which states that conditions in the womb can seriously affect your baby's kidneys not just when they are born, but for decades after.
The researchers discovered that low birth weight and prematurity - which in the past have been associated with high blood pressure and chronic kidney disease in adulthood - may also affect the way the kidneys function.
Importance of a healthy pregnancy
The researchers discovered that low birth weight and being born prematurely could lead to a low number of nephrons, which are the kidney's filtration units. The scientists explained that humans are born with an average of 1 million nephrons and lose up to 6,000 of them annually. Birth weight appears to be correlated with nephron number - low-weight babies tend to have fewer nephrons than those who weigh more when they are born.
"Given the strong associations between birth weight, nephron number and disease later in life, and the fact that a baby's weight is routinely recorded in many countries, we suggest that birth weight should be a parameter that clinicians use to determine how often a patient is screened for kidney function or given a blood pressure test," said researcher John Bertram, Ph.D., of Monash University. "Although a newborn may appear perfect, if their birth weight is low, there may be consequences 40 years down the line."
Bertram added that these findings show that it could be possible to detect the risk of certain conditions earlier in life.
More on low birth weight
Along with potentially experiencing kidney problems, babies born at a low weight could face a number of other issues. For example, Boston Children's Hospital explains that these babies may have an inability to maintain body temperature, difficulty gaining weight, breathing problems, neurological issues, and an increased risk of experiencing sudden infant death syndrome.
The primary cause of low-birth weight is premature delivery, however, there may be other factors. For example, African-American babies are twice as likely as Caucasian babies to have low-birth weight. Also, teen mothers are far more likely to have a baby with a low weight, as are women who give birth to multiple babies.
Furthermore, mothers who use illicit drugs, smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol may also be likely to have a baby with a low-birth weight. This is why it's crucial for pregnant women to seek help if they're addicted to any of these substances.
It's also important for you to make sure that you follow a healthy diet and eat as often as your doctor tells you to, in order to help ensure that your baby is born a healthy weight. You should consume plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains.
The Boston Children's Hospital added that there is a 95 percent chance of survival for babies weighing between 3 pounds, 5 ounces and 5 pounds, 8 ounces. So even if your baby is born underweight, there is a high chance that he or she will be just fine.
What recommendations did your doctor make to help ensure that your baby would be a healthy weight? Was your baby born at a low-birth weight? If so, how was this problem handled? Share your story here!