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      Pregnancy: An Underutilized Window of Opportunity to Improve Long-term Maternal and Infant Health—An Appeal for Continuous Family Care and Interdisciplinary Communication

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          Physiologic adaptations during pregnancy unmask a woman’s predisposition to diseases. Complications are increasingly predicted by first-trimester algorithms, amplify a pre-existing maternal phenotype and accelerate risks for chronic diseases in the offspring up to adulthood (Barker hypothesis). Recent evidence suggests that vice versa, pregnancy diseases also indicate maternal and even grandparent’s risks for chronic diseases (reverse Barker hypothesis). Pub-Med and Embase were reviewed for Mesh terms “fetal programming” and “pregnancy complications combined with maternal disease” until January 2017. Studies linking pregnancy complications to future cardiovascular, metabolic, and thrombotic risks for mother and offspring were reviewed. Women with a history of miscarriage, fetal growth restriction, preeclampsia, preterm delivery, obesity, excessive gestational weight gain, gestational diabetes, subfertility, and thrombophilia more frequently demonstrate with echocardiographic abnormalities, higher fasting insulin, deviating lipids or clotting factors and show defective endothelial function. Thrombophilia hints to thrombotic risks in later life. Pregnancy abnormalities correlate with future cardiovascular and metabolic complications and earlier mortality. Conversely, women with a normal pregnancy have lower rates of subsequent diseases than the general female population creating the term: “Pregnancy as a window for future health.” Although the placenta works as a gatekeeper, many pregnancy complications may lead to sickness and earlier death in later life when the child becomes an adult. The epigenetic mechanisms and the mismatch between pre- and postnatal life have created the term “fetal origin of adult disease.” Up to now, the impact of cardiovascular, metabolic, or thrombotic risk profiles has been investigated separately for mother and child. In this manuscript, we strive to illustrate the consequences for both, fetus and mother within a cohesive perspective and thus try to demonstrate the complex interrelationship of genetics and epigenetics for long-term health of societies and future generations. Maternal–fetal medicine specialists should have a key role in the prevention of non-communicable diseases by implementing a framework for patient consultation and interdisciplinary networks. Health-care providers and policy makers should increasingly invest in a stratified primary prevention and follow-up to reduce the increasing number of manifest cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and to prevent waste of health-care resources.

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          Most cited references 205

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          Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2016 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association.

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            Prevalence of obesity and trends in the distribution of body mass index among US adults, 1999-2010.

            Between 1980 and 1999, the prevalence of adult obesity (body mass index [BMI] ≥30) increased in the United States and the distribution of BMI changed. More recent data suggested a slowing or leveling off of these trends. To estimate the prevalence of adult obesity from the 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and compare adult obesity and the distribution of BMI with data from 1999-2008. NHANES includes measured heights and weights for 5926 adult men and women from a nationally representative sample of the civilian noninstitutionalized US population in 2009-2010 and for 22,847 men and women in 1999-2008. The prevalence of obesity and mean BMI. In 2009-2010 the age-adjusted mean BMI was 28.7 (95% CI, 28.3-29.1) for men and also 28.7 (95% CI, 28.4-29.0) for women. Median BMI was 27.8 (interquartile range [IQR], 24.7-31.7) for men and 27.3 (IQR, 23.3-32.7) for women. The age-adjusted prevalence of obesity was 35.5% (95% CI, 31.9%-39.2%) among adult men and 35.8% (95% CI, 34.0%-37.7%) among adult women. Over the 12-year period from 1999 through 2010, obesity showed no significant increase among women overall (age- and race-adjusted annual change in odds ratio [AOR], 1.01; 95% CI, 1.00-1.03; P = .07), but increases were statistically significant for non-Hispanic black women (P = .04) and Mexican American women (P = .046). For men, there was a significant linear trend (AOR, 1.04; 95% CI, 1.02-1.06; P < .001) over the 12-year period. For both men and women, the most recent 2 years (2009-2010) did not differ significantly (P = .08 for men and P = .24 for women) from the previous 6 years (2003-2008). Trends in BMI were similar to obesity trends. In 2009-2010, the prevalence of obesity was 35.5% among adult men and 35.8% among adult women, with no significant change compared with 2003-2008.
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              Breastfeeding and the use of human milk.

              Breastfeeding and human milk are the normative standards for infant feeding and nutrition. Given the documented short- and long-term medical and neurodevelopmental advantages of breastfeeding, infant nutrition should be considered a public health issue and not only a lifestyle choice. The American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant. Medical contraindications to breastfeeding are rare. Infant growth should be monitored with the World Health Organization (WHO) Growth Curve Standards to avoid mislabeling infants as underweight or failing to thrive. Hospital routines to encourage and support the initiation and sustaining of exclusive breastfeeding should be based on the American Academy of Pediatrics-endorsed WHO/UNICEF "Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding." National strategies supported by the US Surgeon General's Call to Action, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and The Joint Commission are involved to facilitate breastfeeding practices in US hospitals and communities. Pediatricians play a critical role in their practices and communities as advocates of breastfeeding and thus should be knowledgeable about the health risks of not breastfeeding, the economic benefits to society of breastfeeding, and the techniques for managing and supporting the breastfeeding dyad. The "Business Case for Breastfeeding" details how mothers can maintain lactation in the workplace and the benefits to employers who facilitate this practice.

                Author and article information

                Front Pediatr
                Front Pediatr
                Front. Pediatr.
                Frontiers in Pediatrics
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                13 April 2017
                : 5
                1Center for Mother and Child, Philipps University , Marburg, Germany
                2Clara Angela Foundation , Witten, Germany
                3Center for Fetal Therapy, Johns Hopkins University , Baltimore, MD, USA
                Author notes

                Edited by: Ana Claudia Zenclussen, Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, Germany

                Reviewed by: Patrick Shannon Ramsey, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, USA; Azadeh Farzin, Johns Hopkins University, USA

                *Correspondence: Birgit Arabin, bine.clara.angela@

                Specialty section: This article was submitted to Obstetric and Pediatric Pharmacology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Pediatrics

                Copyright © 2017 Arabin and Baschat.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 3, Tables: 4, Equations: 0, References: 211, Pages: 18, Words: 16032


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