The environment in utero and in early neonatal life may induce a permanent response in the fetus and the newborn, leading to enhanced susceptibility to later diseases. This review concentrates on the role and mechanisms of events during the antenatal and immediate postnatal period resulting in later life diseases, concentrating on abnormal growth patterns of the fetus. Fetal overgrowth is related to exposure to a diabetic intra uterine environment, increasing the vulnerability to transgenerational obesity and hence an increased sensitivity to more diabetic mothers. This effect has been supported by animal data. Fetal growth restriction is complex due to malnutrition in utero, catch up growth due to a high caloric intake and low physical activity in later life. Metabolic changes and a transgenerational effect of intra uterine malnutrition has been supported by animal data. In recent years the discovery of alterations of the genome due to different influences during embryonic life, called epigenetics, has led to the phenomenon of fetal programming resulting in changing transgenerational metabolic effects.
©2012 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston