According to the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) hypothesis several non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have their origins in prenatal life and in early childhood. These NCDs include coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes as well as several psychological outcomes and a variety of other health outcomes.
It is proposed that the intrauterine milieu affects the developing fetus via a number of pathways resulting in the programming of various health outcomes. The consequences of programming can be both positive and negative.
One underlying principle within the DOHaD-field is that factors including nutritional, hormonal and metabolic ones that are active during sensitive periods of development may permanently influence the health of the growing fetus, through programming. Programming in general refers to a process where an insult, taking place during a sensitive period of development, may have lifelong consequences, by affecting the structure and physiology of cells and organs.