Researchers are now recruiting pregnant women and those planning to conceive to determine how interventions early in life could help prevent conditions such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and promote a healthier life for the next generation.
"Obesity is one of the most serious global health crises of the 21st century, and the greatest rise is among women of reproductive age," said neonatologist Dr Adrienne Gordon, project leader of the BABY1000 study.
"At the time of conception, the health and lifestyle of the parents — including their diet, body weight, stress levels and whether or not they smoke — play an important role in the development of the foetus and in determining the future health of the child.
"This study offers an invaluable opportunity for inter-generational prevention. A deeper understanding of how these parental factors impact children and long-term health could lead to improved health for future generations."
Over the next 24 months, the research team aims to recruit 500 women and their partners for a large longitudinal pilot study.
Women who are under 13 weeks pregnant or are planning to conceive are invited to apply to take part.
Participants will need to attend study visits at the Royal Prince Alfred clinic at the Charles Perkins Centre on the University's Camperdown campus in Sydney before, during and after pregnancy.
Throughout pregnancy and beyond, researchers will collect general information on lifestyle, nutrition, body composition, pregnancy weight gain, and mental well-being. Additionally, a wide range of biological samples will be collected.
"We want to collect and analyse as much information as possible from the women, partners and infants enrolled in our study, including data before and in early pregnancy," said Dr Nathalie Kizirian, project and research officer for the BABY1000 study.
"The findings will contribute to a better understanding of how and why chronic diseases are transmitted through generations, and inform the innovative area of preconception clinical management, as well as future interventional studies."
The team is also establishing a large intervention trial to follow the pilot study.
"We're planning a randomised controlled trial of over 5,000 women in multiple centres across NSW and ACT, to determine if weight loss before pregnancy improves pregnancy outcomes and infant health from birth to two years of age," Gordon said.
According to Dr Kizirian, this would be the largest preconception weight loss trial ever conducted.
"Ultimately, we want to raise awareness that preconception health is more important than currently understood, and that intervening before pregnancy is key to improved outcomes for mother and baby."