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Epigenetics and Pregnancy: How Your Choices Shape Your Baby's Future

A great way to catch your reader's attention is to tell a story. Everything you consider writing can be told as a story.
Conventional wisdom and medical recommendations propose a host of guidelines for pregnant women. Some of the most well-known pieces of advice include:

abstaining from drinking alcohol and smoking
avoiding stress
taking folic acid
exercising regularly
Now scientists are discovering even more reasons to follow the doctor's orders. All of these things effect your unborn baby's epigenetics—changes to the genes that determine how cells will grow and develop. Epigenetic changes are responsible for cell differentiation in your growing baby, determining which cells will become his or her brain, heart, eyes, and so on.

While many of these changes happen naturally and contribute to normal development, other changes can be triggered by exposure to certain chemicals and hormones. These unnatural changes have been linked to the risk of a child developing an array of disorders and diseases, from diabetes to cancer1 to autism2. Some of these manifest in childhood, but others go unnoticed until adulthood. So a mother's diet and habits while pregnant can have impacts on her child even decades after he or she is born.

The first few weeks of pregnancy3 seem to be a particularly vulnerable time in fetal development. During this time, the delicate process of development can be easily disrupted by external influences, affecting the epigenetic changes that will contribute to the shape of your baby's future. The exact genes that, when impacted by epigenetic changes, lead to risk of each disease and disorder have not been pinpointed, and further study is required to fully understand which behaviors and dietary considerations cause the most impact, but the discoveries so far certainly give parents everywhere food for thought.

So the next time you consider having that glass of wine with dinner, ignoring your doctor's dietary suggestions, or working stressful overtime hours, think again. Consider that the choices you make while pregnant could be shaping your baby's future just as much as your decisions after he or she has been born.


1. Weidman, J. R., Dolinoy, D. C., Murphy, S. K., & Jirtle, R. L. (2007). Cancer susceptibility: epigenetic manifestation of environmental exposures. The Cancer Journal. 13(1): 9–16.

2. Ladd-Acosta, C., Hansen, K. D., Briem, E., Fallin, M. D., Kaufmann, W. E., & Feinberg, A. P. (2013). Common DNA methylation alterations in multiple brain regions in autism. Molecular Psychiatry. doi: 10.1038/mp.2013.114

3. Hamilton, J. (2013). How a pregnant woman's choices could shape a child's health. Retrieved from
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Regenerative Medicine: Stem Cell Therapy as the Future of Medicine

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human services1, regenerative medicine "has the potential to develop therapies for previously untreatable diseases and conditions . . . [including] diabetes, heart disease, renal failure, osteoporosis, and spinal cord injuries.”

When you encounter an illness or sustain an injury, your body tissues can be damaged. For example, osteoporosis may have weakened your bones, or you may have damaged your spinal cord in a car accident. In regenerative medicine, stem cells are used to rebuild or repair these damaged tissues in the human body.

Stems cells used in regenerative medicine may come from an anonymous donor (allogenic sources). Allogenic cells are not a genetic match to the patient. It is important to note that the rate of success of stem cell therapy is increased if the stem cells used in the procedure come from autologous or allogenic related sources, meaning the stem cells come from the patient or from the sibling of the patient. These cells may have been collected from the patient's (or a sibling's) umbilical cord at the time of birth and stored in a cord blood bank. Because these cells are genetically similar to the patient's cells, the risk of the patient's body rejecting the treatment is decreased. It is for this reason that many expectant parents decide to collect and store the stem cells in their children's umbilical cord blood.

Regenerative medicine is the next step for the medical world, and new stem cell therapies are emerging to treat conditions and disorders as research progresses around the globe. One example of exciting advances in regenerative medicine is in the field of osteoporosis treatment. In 2012, researchers determined that one specific cell found in umbilical cord blood was able to reverse osteoporosis in their test subjects (mice)2. This holds promise for the treatment, and ultimate cure, of osteoporosis as science makes strides in the field of regenerative medicine.


1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2006). 2020: A new vision: A future for regenerative medicine. Retrieved from

2. Aggarwal, R., Lu, J., Kanji, S., Joseph, M., Das, M., Noble, G. J., . . . Das, H. (2012). Human umbilical cord blood-derived CD34+ cells reverse osteoporosis in NOD/SCID mice by altering osteoblastic and osteoclastic activities. PLoS One, 7(6). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0039365
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4 Reasons to Store Your Child’s Cord Blood

While medical researchers and physicians have been lauding the application of cord blood stem cells in numerous cancer and disease therapies for years, the practice of collecting and storing umbilical cord blood is becoming more accepted and practical than ever. Families everywhere now have the opportunity to have their newborn baby’s cord blood collected and stored for future use in the event that the child or another family member develops a disease that can be treated using cord blood stem cells. Storing the umbilical cord blood of a newborn baby offers several unique medical benefits to families that may one day be confronted with serious medical problems. Here are 4 things to consider when you are deciding whether to participate in a cord blood storage program.

1) Collecting Cord Blood Stem Cells is Pain-Free

Unlike other medical procedures to extract stem cells from the body, the process of collecting stem cells from umbilical cord blood is completely noninvasive and safe for your baby. After the newborn's umbilical cord is clamped and cut, the umbilical cord blood is drawn and saved. Once collected, the blood is preserved in a contamination-free environment. If you have elected to use private storage, the stem cells will ready to be used whenever your child needs them.

2) Cord Blood can Help Countless Patients

Stem cells are most effective on the person that donated them. If you store your baby's cord blood, the stem cells will be a perfect match for your child if he or she ever needs stem cell therapy. Using the donor's own cells in a procedure is referred to as "autologous" stem cell transplant, and this type of stem cell therapy is especially successful in treating more than 80 different diseases and medical conditions. And given that properly stored cord blood can be used at any point during your child's lifespan, it has the potential to treat any number of life-threatening conditions that can arise during the his or her life.

Similarly, stem cells harvested from the cord blood of a donor can be used to treat other family members in many cases. There is a 25% chance1 that your other children will be a match for stem cells collected from your baby's umbilical cord blood.

3) Cord Blood is Unique and Vital to the Success of Many Treatments

Stem cells extracted from cord blood are known to be more effective than bone marrow stem cells in treating many forms of cancer and other diseases. Unlike older stem cells that may be compromised or diseased themselves, cord blood stem cells are extremely versatile and pure.

Another major advantage of turning to stored cord blood as a treatment option is that it is immediately available for use in early-stage disease therapies. Furthermore, fewer medical complications are associated with cord blood stem cell transplants.

4) The Medical Application of Cord Blood is Expansive

To date, over 30,000 cord blood stem cell transplants have been conducted around the world, and the number continues to grow. And while cord blood stem cells are used in treatments for over 80 different diseases, researchers are continually investigating other potential therapies and prospective uses.


1. FAQs for the Parent's Guide to Cord Blood Foundation (2013). If I banked privately for one child, do I need to do it for additional children? Retrieved from
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Find us on the App Store!

You can find us on the App Store! Countdown to the big day Track your hospital checklist Experience peace of mind Share the countdown with friends and family and add and expand the checklist or use the preloaded essentials many parents depend upon. The Genecord App puts you in touch with our support team for emergency situations or general questions.
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