The competition for nutrients that arises when pregnancy coincides with continuing or incomplete growth in young adolescent girls increases the risk of preterm delivery and low birthweight with negative after-effects for mother and child extending beyond the perinatal period. Sheep paradigms involving nutritional management of weight and adiposity in young biologically immature adolescents have allowed the consequences of differential maternal growth status to be explored. Although nutrient reserves at conception play a modest role, it is the dietary manipulation of the maternal growth trajectory thereafter which has the most negative impact on pregnancy outcome. Overnourishing adolescents to promote rapid maternal growth is particularly detrimental as placental growth, uteroplacental blood-flows and fetal nutrient delivery are perturbed leading to a high incidence of fetal growth-restriction and premature delivery of low birthweight lambs, whereas in undernourished adolescents further maternal growth is prevented and depletion of the maternal body results in a small reduction in birthweight independent of placental size. Maternal and placental endocrine systems are differentially altered in both paradigms with downstream effects on fetal endocrine systems, organ development and body composition. Approaches to reverse these effects have been explored, predominantly targeting placental growth or function. After birth, growth-restricted offspring born to overnourished adolescents and fed to appetite have an altered metabolic phenotype which persists into adulthood whereas offspring of undernourished adolescents are largely unaffected. This body of work using ovine paradigms has public health implications for nutritional advice offered to young adolescents before and during pregnancy, and their offspring thereafter.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism