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What a baby looks like and how it will act are, to a certain extent, determined by the genes the child inherits from it parents. But children's environments also play a role in whom they will ultimately become, and that environment starts in the womb.
Most expectant women are warned that drinking alcohol, smoking and even eating unpasteurized cheeses can have serious consequences for the growth and development of their unborn children.
But there are other ways in which a pregnant woman influences the later health of her child.
Nine months is "actually an incredibly short amount of time for so much growth," said Kim Yolton, a professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. "There are so many things that have to fall exactly into place, or there can be problems," she said.
Here are seven surprising ways that pregnant moms can affect their babies, and tips for how they can protect their pregnancies.
Shed pounds before pregnancySlide 2 of 15
Shed pounds before pregnancy
Maternal obesity increases the risk of a woman developing gestational diabetes or going into preterm labor, as well as the risk of obesity and diabetes in the child. Recent studies have also linked a woman's pre-pregnancy weight to her child's risk of asthma.
A study published in January found that nearly 12 percent of 1,100 children born to obese mothers had frequent wheezing at 14 months old, compared with less than 4 percent of those born to normal-weight mothers.
Regular exercise can help. "Even if mothers were not active before becoming pregnant, they should strive to go on walks for at least 20 minutes, four times a week,” said Dr. Jennifer Wu, an OB-GYN at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.Slide 3 of 15
Drink coffee in moderationSlide 4 of 15
Drink coffee in moderation
Doctors and researchers have known that high caffeine intake during pregnancy may harm the fetus, but just how much caffeine may be harmful has been the subject of much debate.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women limit themselves to 200 milligrams or less of caffeine daily, the equivalent to two cups of full-strength coffee.
However, a study published last month found that far less caffeine was associated with an increased risk for babies being smaller than normal at birth.
"If you have to drink coffee, keep it to less than six ounces a day. That's only half of a size tall at Starbucks," Wu said.Slide 5 of 15
Avoid secondhand smokeSlide 6 of 15
Avoid secondhand smoke
Living in a smoky environment has long been tied to asthma and breathing problems in kids, but new research suggests that even exposure to secondhand smoke in the womb may lead to health problems later on.
One study of mothers and children in China found that kids born to mothers exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy were more than twice as likely to develop attention and aggression problems by the age of five than the children of mothers unexposed to smoke.Slide 7 of 15
Discuss antidepressants with your doctorSlide 8 of 15