NDSU Guides

Center for Nutrition and Pregnancy

About Us

Established by the Board of Higher Education in 2002, the overall goal of the CNP is to increase the proportion of healthy, productive offspring by ensuring an optimal maternal environment during pregnancy and lactation. This research area is extremely important because of its tremendous potential socioeconomic impact.

For example, various factors such as poor maternal nutrition, which lead to low birth weight, are major contributors to the high postal mortality in mammals, including livestock and humans. In U.S. livestock, the rate of postnatal mortality is approximately 10% [1]. Compared with the rest of the developed world, the U.S. also suffers a high incidence of preterm birth and low birth weight in humans, which are major risk factors for infant mortality [2-4]. In both humans and livestock, most postnatal mortality occurs in the first 7 days after birth, implying a problem with fetal development or the birth process, or both.

Moreover, in both humans and livestock, growth restricted offspring per se may be at risk not only of immediate postnatal complications but also may be ‘programmed’ to develop a host of problems later in life, including metabolic syndrome (obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure), poor growth, inappropriate body composition, immune dysfunction, reproductive failure, pervasive developmental disorders (autism, Asperger’s, Rett’s, etc.) as well as a host of other significant problems – a concept that has been termed ‘Developmental Programming.’

In humans, Developmental Programming may perpetuate health problems and social difficulties over generations, whereas in livestock it impacts on meat, milk and fiber production and hence economic returns [5-10].

Since its inception in December 2002, the CNP has become one of the premiere centers in the world addressing the impact not only of maternal nutrition but also various other factors (see list, below) on fertility (the ability to conceive and maintain a pregnancy), fetal and placental growth and development, and postnatal outcomes including postnatal health and productivity (i.e., Developmental Programming).

The investigators who participate in CNP represent a wide range of disciplines, from Biochemistry and Molecular Biology to Embryology, Genetics, Nutrition, Pharmacology, Physiology, and others. An important focus of their efforts is on use various therapeutic and nutritional strategies designed to ‘rescue’ fetal growth and development that has been compromised by poor maternal nutrition.

Faculty and students involved in CNP have published over 120 peer-reviewed articles and reviews in international journals, organized and spoken at numerous national and international symposia, sat on numerous Federal grant review panels/focus groups, hosted numerous visiting scientists, and supervised many graduate and undergraduate student research projects.

Currently, studies in a variety of species (primarily sheep, swine, and cattle) are designed to understand how the following factors/stressors impact fertility as well as fetal and postnatal growth and development, and therefore health and productivity, of the offspring:

  • Maternal nutritional intake around the time of conception
  • Maternal nutritional intake during pregnancy
  • Specific nutrients, such as selenium and protein, in the maternal diet
  • Maternal nutritional intake during early lactation
  • Maternal activity/exercise
  • Maternal exposure to steroid hormones (e.g., corticoids, estrogens)
  • Maternal age (e.g., adolescence)
  • Maternal or fetal genotype
  • Singleton vs. multiple fetuses/offspring
  • Sex of the fetus/offspring
  • Assisted reproductive techniques including in vitro fertilization and cloning


References Cited


Wu, G., F. W. Bazer, J. M. Wallace, and T. E. Spencer. 2006. BOARD-INVITED REVIEW: Intrauterine growth retardation: Implications for the animal sciences. J. Anim. Sci. 84:2316–2337.

MacDorman MF, Mathews TJ. 2009. Behind international rankings of infant mortality: How the United States compares with Europe. NCHS Data Brief, CDC.

MOD (March of Dimes), 2009, What’s New: U.S. gets a “D” for preterm birth rate.

WHO, 2005, Feto-maternal nutrition and low birth weight.

Barker DJP, Gluckman PD, Godfrey KM, Harding JE, Owens JA, Robinson JS. Fetal nutrition and cardiovascular disease in adult life. Lancet 1993: 341: 938-942.

Bell AW. 1992. Foetal growth and its influence on postnatal growth and development. In: The Control of Fat and Lean Deposition. Oxford: Buttwerworth-Heinemann, pp 111-127.

Caton, JS and BW Hess. 2010. Maternal plane of nutrition: Impacts on fetal outcomes and postnatal offspring responses. Invited Review. Pages 104-122 in Proc. 4th Grazing Livestock Nutrition Conference.

B. W. Hess, T. Delcurto, J. G. P. Bowman, and R. C. Waterman eds. West Sect. Am. Soc. Anim. Sci., Champaign, IL.

Godfrey KM, Barker DJ. Fetal nutrition and adult disease. Am J Clin Nutr 2000; 71(5 Suppl): 1344S-52S.

Hack M, Klein NK and Taylor HG Long-term developmental outcomes of low birth weight infants. Future Child 1995; 5: 176-196.

Reynolds LP, Borowicz PP, Caton JS, Vonnahme KA, JS. Luther, CJ Hammer, KR Maddock Carlin, Grazul-Bilska AT and Redmer DA. Developmental programming: The concept, large animal models, and the key role of utero-placental vascular development. J Anim Sci 2010b; 88: E61-E72.