Louis Waller 2015: Parenting begins before conception

Sep 2015 |
Fertility and infertility

‘Parenting begins before conception’ was the title of the Louis Waller Lecture 2015, delivered by Professor Sarah Robertson from The Robinson Research Institute, University of Adelaide, on 3 September.

Addressing an audience of more than 100 people, Professor Robertson discussed her research findings that lifestyle and environmental factors for both parents in the months leading up to conception can directly impact on the health of a child at birth and into adulthood, and the so-called ‘epigenetic’ mechanisms involved.

Professor Robertson said that epigenetics affect 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.

“Things like the food that we eat, smoking, exposure to alcohol as well as various chemicals such as insecticides in the environment can have effects on our bodily functions, through epigenetic information that is transmitted from the parents into the child,” Professor Robertson said.

“From the time of conception and even before conception there is information that is transferred through the parents via the gametes – the sperm and the egg - and is transmitted into the embryo and therefore the fetus and the child. So events at that very early time have a long term impact on health, from birth through adult life.” 

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.

For more information on fertility and reproductive health visit coalition partner's website:

Andrology Australia

Jean Hailes for Women's Health

The Robinson Research Institute

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