What Should You Eat When Trying to Conceive? Your Pre-Pregnancy Diet May Affect Your Baby's DNA

We know the rules when it comes to how to have a healthy baby: eat right, don’t do drugs, and don’t drink (a lot) when you’re pregnant — but what should you do before conceiving? According to NPR, a recent study concluded that a woman’s diet at the time of conception can have a huge effect on her baby's genes...permanently. As in, your pre-pregnancy diet may be just as important as what you eating during.

Conducted by scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and published in Nature Communications, the study shows that a mother’s nutritional deficiencies at the time of conception can change her baby’s DNA for the long term. The researchers observed 170 newly pregnant mothers in rural west Africa at different times of the year, since their diets change drastically season to season. Though they only observed six genes, the results were clear: low levels of select vitamins pre-pregnancy do, in fact, have "epigenic effects " — or "modifications to DNA that turn genes on and off" according to the BBC — on your future baby.

The Daily Mail points out that some of the key players here are B2, B6, B12, choline, folic acid, and methylation. Though some of these are obvious necessities in the eyes of most pregnant women (folic acid, of course), others might sound slightly off. Researcher Andrew Prentice of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggests future mothers load up on protein, milk, and leafy greens before conceiving.

Prentice explains to the Daily Mail what this research means for diets of future moms:

"Now research is pointing to the need for a cocktail of nutrients, which could come from the diet or from supplements... What is pretty thrilling is that we seem to have hit on something that has worldwide consequences for women trying to conceive."

This is pretty exciting news for anyone considering having a(nother) baby...ever! I'm excited to see what future research will present on the topic. Better pre-conception diets leading to healthier babies is an absolute must!