Maternal deprivation and overnutrition in early postnatal life and their primary prevention: Historical reminiscence of an “ecologic experiment” in Germany

Authors

  • Günter Dörner,

    1. Institute of Experimental Endocrinology
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  • Elke Rodekamp,

    1. Research Group “Experimental Obstetrics”, Clinic of Obstetrics, Charité-University Medicine Berlin, Germany
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  • Andreas Plagemann

    Corresponding author
    1. Research Group “Experimental Obstetrics”, Clinic of Obstetrics, Charité-University Medicine Berlin, Germany
    • Head of “Experimental Obstetrics”, Clinic of Obstetrics Charité – University Medicine Berlin, Campus Virchow-Klinikum, Augustenburger Platz 1, 13353 Berlin, Germany, Tel.: +49 30 450 52 40 41, Fax +49 30 450 52 49 28
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Abstract

During critical developmental periods in early life, altered environmental conditions can lead to pre- and early postnatally acquired, life-long malfunctions and subsequent diseases (Perinatal Programming). Avoiding unfavourable conditions during early development may thus open possibilities of primary prevention.

At the beginning of the 21st century, demographic aging and increasing overweight prevalences are two major problems nearly world-wide. Interestingly, during the second half of the last century, an outstanding “ecologic experiment” has taken place in central Europe, where Germany was divided for four decades into two parts with differing political, economic, social and medical systems, and different approaches towards prevention, especially in early life. Two examples of preventive measures introduced and realized in East Germany and East Berlin until the German reunification were intense breastfeeding promotion and the so-called “Baby-Year”, which meant that a mother could stay at home receiving her full salaries for one year after giving birth. Possible outcomes of these measures of primary prevention with effect on demographic aging and overweight risk in the people will be outlined in this essay.

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