Parenting from before conception

Science. 2014 Aug 15;345(6198):756-60. doi: 10.1126/science.1254400. Epub 2014 Aug 14.


At fertilization, the gametes endow the embryo with a genomic blueprint, the integrity of which is affected by the age and environmental exposures of both parents. Recent studies reveal that parental history and experiences also exert effects through epigenomic information not contained in the DNA sequence, including variations in sperm and oocyte cytosine methylation and chromatin patterning, noncoding RNAs, and mitochondria. Transgenerational epigenetic effects interact with conditions at conception to program the developmental trajectory of the embryo and fetus, ultimately affecting the lifetime health of the child. These insights compel us to revise generally held notions to accommodate the prospect that biological parenting commences well before birth, even prior to conception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Embryo, Mammalian / physiology*
  • Embryonic Development
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Fathers*
  • Female
  • Fertilization*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Mothers*
  • Oocytes / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • RNA, Untranslated / metabolism
  • Semen / physiology
  • Spermatozoa / physiology


  • RNA, Untranslated