Couples who are obese، as well as those who smoke and drink alcohol، could be risking the health of their future children، say experts who are calling for far more awareness of the effects of modern lifestyles on babies in the womb، as the Guardian siad. A series of three scientific papers in a leading medical journal spell out the consequences of poor diet and lifestyles for the next generation. They urge schools، GPs and nurses to talk to young people and those who may be planning a family about how to be fitter and healthier before they embark on pregnancy. What happens in the “pre-conception” period can have a profound impact on the growth، development and long-term health of children، they say. Some of the interventions that exist to help pregnant women be healthier are taken up too late. Folic acid helps prevent neural defects، but most women do not start to take it until they have seen a GP to confirm their pregnancy، which can be after a month or two. The crucial time is in the early days and weeks. Lead author Prof Judith Stephenson of University College London said: “The key message is to act earlier، before conception. The idea that there are things you can do before the pregnancy that will affect the health of the baby is not always grasped. “The general view of most women is، ‘Once I’m pregnant I will go and see the GP and things will get going from there.’” But she said the scientists did not want to distress parents who might have been overweight when they had their children. “All the evidence points to early events being very influential in later life، but you are not doomed at that stage،” she said. “Things you do throughout childhood and adolescence also have a powerful influence on future health.” The global series of three papers in the Lancet also highlights the risks of undernourished girls in the developing world having stunted babies with poor cognitive development. It is a very serious problem that needs to be better tackled، but obesity is now more widespread. “In many low، middle، and high-income countries، up to 50% of women are overweight or obese when they become pregnant،” say the experts. “In high-income countries، adolescents have the poorest diets of any age group … it is a crucial period for establishing long-term health risk.” Obesity، they say، is associated with increased risk of most major adverse outcomes for pregnant women and their babies. It can make it hard to conceive and complicate pregnancy – women are at risk of high blood pressure، called pre-eclampsia، for instance. It increases the chances of birth defects، stillbirth، low-weight babies، unsuccessful breastfeeding and even the death of the mother.