In 2001, Kevin M. Godfrey and David J.P. Barker published the article “Fetal Programming and Adult Health” in Public Health Nutrition, where they identified the significance of maternal nutrition during pregnancy to healthy offspring development. The authors describe the effects of maternal nutrition on fetal programming of cardiovascular disease. Fetal programming is when a specific event during pregnancy has effects on the fetus long after birth. The authors argue that fetuses may adapt to varying shifts in their environment in utero, such as slowed fetal growth in response to malnutrition. While those adaptations can be helpful in utero, the authors assert they may persist into adolescence and adulthood, causing conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Godfrey and Barker assert that fetal adaptations to maternal malnutrition may be implicated in the development of cardiovascular disease in adulthood, and called for future research investigating additional fetal programming variables.

During the mid-twentieth century, Virginia Apgar worked as an obstetrical anesthesiologist and gave drugs to women that reduced their pain during childbirth in the US. In 1953, Apgar created a scoring system, called the Apgar score, that uses five measurements, including heart rate and breathing rate. The Apgar score evaluates newborn infants and determines who needs immediate medical attention. Apgar's work helped decrease infant mortality rates. As of 2020, hospitals around the world use the Apgar score.

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