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Research group/lab  |  PI Régine Steegers-Theunissen

Periconception Epidemiology

Our research group focuses on the physiology and pathophysiology of reproductive outcomes and the impact of parental health and lifestyle in the periconception period.

About our research group/lab

Our research


Interactions between parental conditions, environmental exposures, and genetic variations can affect growth, development, plasticity, and functioning of parental gametes and reproductive (extra-) embryonic and fetal organs. Evidence is compelling that environmental exposures during pregnancy also contribute to obesity and non-communicable diseases during the child’s life course. Most reproductive failures, pregnancy complications, and adverse pregnancy outcomes originate in the periconceptional period, a time window of 14 weeks before and up to 10 weeks after conception. Therefore, we focus on this specific window to achieve the greatest short and long term health benefits for both mother and (unborn) child.


The research group Periconception Epidemiology investigates the influences in the periconceptional period of various maternal and paternal lifestyle factors on a child’s embryonic and fetal development and growth, such as nutrition, smoking, alcohol, and folic acid use. On the basis of our findings, we aim to develop innovative eHealth and digital interventions, such as Slimmer Zwanger (slimmerzwanger - smarterpregnancy), targeted at improving poor lifestyle factors. Slimmer Zwanger is a proven (cost-)effective, interactive tailored coaching platform, which not only stimulates participants’ healthy behavior, but also increases chances of ongoing pregnancy.

Rotterdam periconception cohort (Predict study)

A major part of our research is embedded in the Predict study, a large ongoing prospective cohort study focused on periconceptional women. This study started in 2010 and currently includes more than 3000 women. The Predict study focuses on:

  • determinants of the couple’s periconceptional health;
  • the reproductive performance and pregnancy course and outcome;
  • the underlying epigenetic profiles to explain associations between periconceptional parental health, reproductive performance and pregnancy course and outcome.


Thus far, we have welcomed numerous scientists and students from various scientific disciplines (medicine, nutrition, biomedical sciences, epidemiology, psychology) and from all over the world. Thus far, 18 PhD students have finalized their PhD in our group, and more than 95 MSc or MD projects have been completed in the team.

Our projects

Examples of previous and current projects:

  • Motivating vulnerable women for preconception care.
  • Impact of periconceptional in vitro exposures on (preimplantation) embryonal development.
  • Bariatric surgery on pregnancy, embryonal and fetal growth.
  • Using virtual reality and 3D imaging for investigating the development of the placenta and utero-placental vasculature.
  • Impact of eHealth coaching on the couple’s periconceptional obesity, nutrition and lifestyle.
  • Ovarian health and early adaptation to pregnancy.
  • Paternal lifestyle and nutrition on (preimplantation) embryo quality and development.
  • Influence of maternal and paternal obesity, nutrition and lifestyle on embryonic development during IVF treatments.
  • 4D fetal brain atlas using deep learning and machine learning.
  • Associations between maternal telomere length and congenital malformations.

Key Publications

An overview of our publications can be found here:

Régine Steegers-Theunissen


Collaboration within Erasmus MC

  • Epidemiology
  • Medical Ethics and Philosophy
  • Clinical Chemistry
  • Internal Medicine
  • Biostatistics
  • Radiology
  • Bioinformatics
  • Paediatrics
  • Neonatology

Collaboration outside of Erasmus MC

  • TU Delft (faculty of Industrial Design Engineering)
  • Medical Delta
  • Wageningen University
  • DOHaRT network
  • Precise network
  • LifeCycle network

Funding & Grants


  • HUGS for HEALTH: Healthy Bugs for Healthy Babies DOHaD team. (NIHR.)
  • The preconceptional maternal obesity-related epigenome and embryonic health. (MRace.)


  • Neighborhood approach of risk behavior by (upcoming) pregnant women through incentives. (FNO.)
  • Periconceptional parental health profiles and novel non-invasive biomarkers of human preimplantation embryo quality for prediction of a clinical pregnancy and a healthy take-home baby in subfertile couples. (O&O.)
  • Effectiveness of personalized m-Health coaching program during pregnancy on maternal nutrition and offspring health: a parallel group randomized controlled design. (AGHA Khan University, Pakistan.)
  • The best start for the young family in Rotterdam. (Stichting Coolsingel.)
  • Maternal adaptation to pregnancy and placenta-related outcome: towards early prevention of long-term cardiovascular morbidity. (Erasmus MC.)
  • VIMP Slimmer Zwanger (Smarter Pregnancy). (ZonMw.)
  • Lifecourse Clinic. (Erasmus MC, Groei en Krimp.)
  • Lifecourse healthcare platform. (Erasmus MC, Koers 18.)


  • A loyalty program to motivate vulnerable women to engage in preconception care: ‘from voucher to tablet’, (ZonMw.)
  • Modelling the impact of maternal obesity on longitudinal prenatal human brain development using a 4-dimensional spatio temporal ultrasound atlas. (MRace.)
  • Accelerated maternal ageing as pathway in the causation and prevention of neural tube defect in human. (Bo Hjelt Foundation.)
  • Chromosome aberrations in human pre-implantation embryos: How to use comprehensive chromosome screening to improve IVF outcome. (MRace.)
  • Incentive-based approach to reduce risk behavior in (potential) future parents: the SAFER pregnancy study. (ZonMw.)
  • JPI-2018-ERA-HDHL-Nutrition and the epigenome: PREcisE - A Precision nutri-epigenetic approach to tackle the mother-to-child transmission of impaired glucose metabolism. (ZonMw.)
  • Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Networks (ITN-ETN). (DohART-NET.)
  • The Medical Delta Institute of Fetal and  Neonatal Care. Technology for the youngest and the smallest. (Medical Delta.)
  • Healthy heart, healthy pregnancy? How a woman's periconceptional cardiovascular health affects the development of preeclampsia. (Preeclampsia foundation.)


  • Lifecourse Zorgplatform 1.0. (Erasmus MC, Koers 23.)
  • PRIME: Periconceptual period adverse events leading to later life mental and non-mental comorbidities. (Horizon 2020.)


  • Improving the health agency of vulnerable mothers-to-be: taking empowerment seriously. (ZonMw.)
  • Obesity during pregnancy: the mechanistic role of the microbiome in maternal and fetal complications. (ZonMw.)

Our team

  • Ann Vanrolleghem, MSc: project coordinator, data manager
  • Damiat Alouad Fares, MD: PhD student
  • Babette Bais, PhD: epidemiologist, postdoc researcher
  • Wietske Bastiaansen, MSc: PhD student
  • Linette van Duijn, MD: PhD student
  • Chryselle Frank, MD: PhD student
  • Jeffrey Hoek, MD: PhD student
  • Batoul Hojeij, MSc: PhD student
  • Sandra van Houdt: secretary
  • Fieke Husen, MD: PhD student
  • Anton Koning, PhD: Bioinformatics
  • Eva van Marion, MD: PhD student
  • Anne-Marie Mulders, MD, PhD: gynaecologist
  • Joke van Rhee-Binkhorst: research nurse
  • Bas van Rijn, MD, PhD: gynaecologist
  • Lenie van Rossem, PhD: nutritionist, epidemiologist, senior researcher
  • Melek Rousian, MD, PhD: gynaecologist, fellow, postdoc researcher
  • Eleanora Rubini: MSc: PhD student
  • Sam Schoenmakers, MD, PhD: gynaecologist, senior researcher
  • Sharissa Smith, MD: PhD student
  • Katinka Snoek, MD: PhD student
  • Elmar Tobi, PhD: postdoc researcher
  • Eline de Vos, MD: PhD student
  • Rosalieke Wiegel, MD: PhD student
  • Sten Willemsen, PhD: statistician
  • Melissa van der Windt, MD: PhD student
  • Sofie van Zundert, MD: PhD student