Let's take a look at what the Bible says.
"The LORD is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations." - Numbers 14:18, NLTI know, some of my non-Christian friends are probably wondering how this would apply to them. And probably all of my readers are wondering what in the world epigenetics, an Old Testament verse, and pregnancy/childbearing have in common. Well, hold up, this next part will intrigue you!
"A baby girl is born with egg cells (oocytes) in her ovaries. Between 16 and 20 weeks of pregnancy, the ovaries of a female fetus contain 6 to 7 million oocytes. Most of the oocytes gradually waste away, leaving about 1 to 2 million present at birth. None develop after birth. At puberty, only about 300,000—more than enough for a lifetime of fertility—remain. Only a small percentage of oocytes mature into eggs. The many thousands of oocytes that do not mature degenerate. Degeneration progresses more rapidly in the 10 to 15 years before menopause. All are gone by menopause. Only about 400 eggs are released during a woman’s reproductive life, usually one during each menstrual cycle. Until released, an egg remains dormant in its follicle-suspended in the middle of a cell division." - merck.com
My grandma carried me in her womb while she was growing my mom. So, although I was born in 1979, the egg that I came from was created in my grandmother’s womb, in 1956. Rad, eh?
How can that be, you ask? Unlike men, who constantly regenerate sperm from the time they hit puberty and on, girls are born with their full lifetime's supply of eggs. Around the 20th week of gestation, while she is yet in her mother's womb, a female fetus has a developed reproductive system, including about 6.5 million eggs nestled in her ovaries.
So, the egg that created you was formed inside of your mother while she was developing inside of your grandmother. Matryoshka dolls anyone? To calculate your own vintage, simply take your mother's birth date and subtract roughly 20 weeks.
A female fetus will produce oocytes that "remain in an arrested state of meiosis in the ovary, from before birth until the oocyte and its surrounding follicle are stimulated during reproductive cycles to complete maturation…In fact, the human egg or oocyte has already existed for at least 15 years in most individuals (the earliest usual first pregnancy), because oocytes are formed before birth. Thus, the egg that gave rise to each of us was formed in our mother while she existed as a fetus in our grandmother." - The Lifespan Development of IndividualsSo, if you are pregnant with a little girl, around week 20 in your pregnancy, and on through the birth of your baby girl, you will be carrying your grandchildren. I have carried my grandbabies while pregnant with my 4 girls. Isn't that awe-inspiring?!
And then, "As the girl begins to ovulate each month during adolescence, these previously “suspended” cells become active." ... "Each month, whether or not the egg is fertilized, a process that began in the Grandmother’s womb, 2 generations prior, is completed." - Ritual Goddess
So that brings us full circle. As awe-inspiring as it is, it is also humbling that we have such a responsibility. How we live, where we live, what we expose ourselves to, what we eat, and more all have an affect on our children and our children's children through the cells that we directly affect, and carry, in our own wombs, for future generations . Studies show that environmental factors, exposure to toxins, maternal nutrition, stress, and other lifestyle choices all affect the development of oocytes.
"A growing body of literature shows a wide variety of substances may adversely affect the female reproductive system, impairing oocyte and embryo developmental competence... very few studies address the consequences for female fertility of simultaneous, complex exposure to compounds such as food additives, toxicants, contaminants, outdoor and indoor air pollutants, endocrine disruptors and hazardous substances. A clear side effect for the lack of a broad picture of complex exposures is an underestimation of the consequences of exposing the population to a wide variety of products. Finally, the oocyte and embryo represent a developmental window during which susceptibility to environmental circumstances is prevalent. " - Oocyte developmental competence and embryo development: impact of lifestyle and environmental risk factors
"Granddaughters of the rats that gobbled excess fat during pregnancy had a 30-percent greater chance of developing breast cancer than those with grandparents who ate healthfully. When only one grandmother, on either the mother's or father's side, had indulged, the granddaughter's disease risk was 19-percent higher." - What You Eat Affects You, Your Kids, and Your Grandkids
"These observations collectively suggest that a range of adult diseases, including hypertension and subsequent kidney and heart disease, in many cases constitute birth defects arising during the first few days of life as a result of seemingly innocuous, short-term variations in maternal diet, a situation that has subsequent clinical and societal importance." - Oocyte Quality and Maternal Control of Development
""Abnormal epigenetic regulation has been implicated in a variety of human diseases," Ohm said. "Those diseases include cancer, obesity, diabetes, infertility, and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease." Ohm completed a postdoctoral fellowship in oncology with an emphasis in cancer and stem cell epigenetics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 2009." - Your Grandchildren Are What You EatTake care of your children, and your grandchildren, through proper nutrition, limit your exposure to harmful substances, food additives, and toxins, stay healthy and active, avoid environmental toxins as much as possible, and nurture the two generations that you hold in your womb!
Eating. Drinking. Touching. Breathing. Nursing. Conceiving.
In Vivo and In Vitro Environmental Effects on Mammalian Oocyte Quality
Third Generation DES
GMO in Third Generation (a study of buildup of toxicity)
Dads, What You Eat Can Affect Your Grandchildren