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First baby born in Southampton study aimed at helping future mothers give their children the best start in life

Published: 11 August 2016
Baby Sophie
Sophie Richardson, the first NiPPeR baby

The first baby has been born into a novel clinical study that is assessing the impact of a mother’s health before and during pregnancy.

Sophie Richardson was born on 26th June 2016 at 8.14pm weighing 6lbs 6oz. Both mother and baby are doing well.

Sophie is the first UK baby born in the international NiPPeR study, which is investigating how a specially-formulated nutritional supplement taken before and during pregnancy could improve the health of the baby in the first year of life and beyond.

The study is being led by the EpiGen Global Research Consortium and being carried out across three centres: Southampton, Singapore and Auckland in New Zealand.

Increasing evidence shows the mother’s nutritional state as she enters pregnancy is important for the baby’s development and life-long health. For example, if the mother has high blood sugar levels in pregnancy it can predispose the baby to having increased body fat and diabetes in later life. Researchers also think that the food women eat, even before they are pregnant, can “program” the baby by switching genes on or off to influence the risk of childhood obesity and other disorders later in life.

Richardson family
Stuart and Lizzie Richardson with baby Sophie

The NiPPeR study provides all participating women with a nutrient drink before conception. The drink includes the vitamins and mineral supplements already recommended for pregnancy. Half the women also get additional components in their drink, such as probiotics, as part of the trial. The women are then followed through pregnancy and their baby’s first year of life.

The study aims to evaluate the benefits of the nutrient drinks for the mother and baby. The team is studying the effects on maintaining healthy levels of blood sugar, vitamins and minerals in the mother, and the potential to promote a healthy pregnancy and healthy growth and development of the child.

In addition, the study will generate a rich “biobank” of blood, urine, hair and other biological samples that will be collected throughout the trial to answer important questions about how to provide babies with the best start to life.

DXA scan
Infants in the study undergo a DXA scan to assess body composition

Professor Keith Godfrey, Professor of Epidemiology and Human Development at the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton is the study’s Chief Investigator. He said: “We are delighted that Sophie is the first UK baby to be born into the NiPPeR study and are thrilled that both mum Lizzie and Sophie are doing so well.

“The pre-conception phase is very important to ensure women are getting the best nutrition in preparation for their pregnancy. By starting before conception, we hope that there will be better outcomes for the mother and baby. Should significant impact on maintaining health and supporting early development be demonstrated, it could have major implications for health policy and strengthen arguments for the provision of pre-conception nutritional advice to the general population.”

Lizzie said: “My baby’s future health is extremely important to me so I was keen to take part in a unique study that may help give my daughter the best start in life. As a nurse I see people with lots of different health problems and we need to do all we can to help the next generation be healthier.”

The study aims to recruit 600 mothers at each of the three sites. So far 174 mothers* from the Southampton area are taking part.

The NiPPeR study is still recruiting. Anyone interested in participating in or receiving further information about the trial should contact the NiPPeR team at the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton on 0800 032 31 30, TEXT NIPPER to 66777, email or visit

Notes for editors

The trial’s full title is: Nutritional Intervention Preconception and during Pregnancy to maintain healthy glucosE levels and offspRing health (NiPPeR). 

The NiPPeR study is still recruiting. The research team are looking for women aged 18-38 years who are planning on becoming pregnant to take part. Women recruited from the Southampton area will be asked to attend a number of appointments at Southampton General Hospital, where a research nurse will administer a questionnaire and body measurements, blood, hair and cheek swab samples will be taken. Participants will be randomly selected to receive a standard nutritional drink containing vitamins and minerals recommended for before and during pregnancy or the study nutritional drink, enriched with additional vitamins, minerals and probiotics. The drink will be taken twice a day before and throughout pregnancy and will provide the women, at no cost to them, with the vitamins and minerals recommended for before and during pregnancy. Taking part will also allow the women to have extra ultrasound scans during pregnancy at 7, 28 and 34 weeks, along with having their NHS ultrasound scans at 12 and 19 weeks in a dedicated suite. Anyone interested in participating in or receiving further information about the trial should contact the NiPPeR team at the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton on 0800 032 31 30, TEXT NIPPER to 66777, email or visit

The NiPPeR study is a collaboration between researchers in the EpiGen Global Consortium from the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton (UK), the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland, the National University of Singapore, and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (Singapore), together with the National University Health System. The Consortium’s aim is to improve human health through the application of epigenetic tools and technologies. The research includes a focus on epigenetics, the biology of understanding how gene function is regulated by environmental factors, such as maternal nutrition, during the very early stages of development.

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