Father's health before conception ultra important


3 September 2015

Lifestyle and environmental factors for fathers in the months leading up to conception can directly impact on the health of a child at birth and into adulthood, according to Professor Sarah Robertson of The Robinson Research Institute, in a lecture tonight at the Alfred Hospital for the Louis Waller Lecture 2015.

In her lecture entitled 'Parenting begins before conception’, Professor Robertson discussed research that revealed how the health of both parents before conception transmits information that determines the health of children after birth and throughout life, and the so-called ‘epigenetic’ mechanisms involved.

"We tend to blame mums for a child's health because the child is clearly affected by the conditions of its gestation in the uterus," Professor Robertson said, "But it turns out that the transmission through the dad is ultra-important. When it comes to things like diet and obesity, the impact of the father is at least as important as the mother."

"The months just prior to conception are the most crucial as that's when the sperm are maturing in the testes and also when the oocyte is gaining full competence to be an egg and get fertilised," she said.

Epigenetics affects not just fertility and pregnancy health, but also the life course potential of offspring, particularly their susceptibility to non-communicable diseases including heart disease, diabetes, allergy and asthma, and neurological conditions.

"Traits like body size, metabolic function and even anxiety in children can be impacted by parental experiences and events," Professor Robertson said.

The Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA) holds the Louis Waller Lecture annually to commemorate the significant contribution Emeritus Professor Louis Waller has made to the field of assisted reproductive treatment in Victoria.

This year the lecture was timed to coincide with Fertility Week, a national public education campaign running from 1-7 September, designed to raise awareness of the modifiable factors affecting a person's ability to conceive and have a healthy baby.  The focus in 2015 is on weight.

Fertility Week is run by Your Fertility, a national public education program funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and the Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services.

Your Fertility is managed by the Fertility Coalition: 

Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority

Andrology Australia

Jean Hailes for Women’s Health and The Robinson Research Institute.



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