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This 3D MRI image of third trimester fetus in the womb is part of a first of its kind study that is using advanced imaging to look at early markers in a babies health.

Scientists at Lawson Health Research Institute say the first 1,000 days after conception could have impacts that can last a lifetime.

Researcher Stephanie Giza explains, “By imaging the fetus with MRI we are able to measure how big the baby is, measure how much fat it has and we can measure other internal organs the baby has as well as look at how the placenta is functioning.”

Giza and a team of scientists at Lawson have taken on the task of studying the impacts of the first thousand days after conception and have found - by using this form of imaging - that pregnancy stressors can have life-long impacts.

“We are looking things like at environmental influences on the mother, what mom eats, that kind of thing, and see how that effects the growth of the fetus,” says scientist Dr. Charles MacKenzie.

In addition, the team can study the placenta in the womb, which can also impact health.

MacKenzie explains, “The placenta is the organ that lets nutrients come to the fetus, that gets rid of the waste out of the fetus so it’s a critical organ in life.”

The placenta can also be affected by conditions like preeclampsia which can cause chronic inflammation for the mother.

That’s why Giza is hoping by using this type of imaging, preventative steps can be taken by doctors that would make a positive impact.

“We’re hoping we can help inform families on the healthiest pregnancy they can have to provide their child with the best start in life as well as inform doctors more about the interventions they are using and perhaps improvements on those interventions. “

The next steps in this study will be to further investigate specific health conditions in the mother like diabetes, for example, to work on preventative health measures for both mother and baby.