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Conceptual background to healthy growth and development 

Conceptual background to healthy growth and development
Chapter:
Conceptual background to healthy growth and development
Author(s):

Sir Peter Gluckman

, Mark Hanson

, Chong Yap Seng

, and Anne Bardsley

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198722700.003.0002
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date: 21 October 2019

This chapter reviews the concepts of developmental plasticity and mismatch, critical periods for exposures, and the emergent science of epigenetics to explain how relatively subtle changes in parental behaviour can affect the outcomes of pregnancy, and why there are echoes of such influences across the whole of life. Contrary to earlier belief that embryonic and fetal development is set by a genetic programme, it is now clear that the fetus responds to cues in the in utero environment and can alter its development and metabolism accordingly. The ‘decisions’ that the developing fetus makes are embedded in its biology and are based on information it receives from its mother and, through her, about the wider environment, in terms of nutrition and physical activity but also about stress and other aspects of lifestyle.

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