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Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives [Kindle Edition]

Annie Murphy Paul
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $10.38
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Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc

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Book Description

What makes us the
way we are? Some say it’s the genes we inherit at conception. Others are sure it’s the environment we experience in childhood. But could it be that many of our individual characteristics—our health, our intelligence, our temperaments—are influenced by the conditions we encountered before birth?

That’s the claim of an exciting and provocative field known as fetal origins. Over the past twenty years, scientists have been developing a radically new understanding of our very earliest experiences and how they exert lasting effects on us from infancy well into adulthood. Their research offers a bold new view of pregnancy as a crucial staging ground for our health, ability, and well-being throughout life.

Author and journalist Annie Murphy Paul ventures into the laboratories of fetal researchers, interviews experts from around the world, and delves into the rich history of ideas about how we’re shaped before birth. She discovers dramatic stories: how individuals gestated during the Nazi siege of Holland in World War II are still feeling its consequences decades later; how pregnant women who experienced the 9/11 attacks passed their trauma on to their offspring in the womb; how a lab accident led to the discovery of a common household chemical that can harm the developing fetus; how the study of a century-old flu pandemic reveals the high personal and societal costs of poor prenatal experience.

also brings to light astonishing scientific findings: how a single exposure to an environmental toxin may produce damage that is passed on to multiple generations; how conditions as varied as diabetes, heart disease, and mental illness may get their start in utero; why the womb is medicine’s latest target for the promotion of lifelong health, from preventing cancer to reducing obesity. The fetus is not an inert being, but an active and dynamic creature, responding and adapting as it readies itself for life in the particular world it will enter. The pregnant woman is not merely a source of potential harm to her fetus, as she is so often reminded, but a source of influence on her future child that is far more powerful and positive than we ever knew. And pregnancy is not a nine-month wait for the big event of birth, but a momentous period unto itself, a cradle of individual strength and wellness and a crucible of public health and social equality.

With the intimacy of a personal memoir and the sweep of a scientific revolution, Origins presents a stunning new vision of our beginnings that will change the way you think about yourself, your children, and human nature itself.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Science writer Paul (The Cult of Personality) segues between pondering her own second pregnancy and the developing literature on fetal origins in this fascinating study of the prenatal period, what one scientist calls the staging ground for well-being and disease in later life. Drawing upon current research and interviews with experts in this burgeoning field, Paul explores such varied topics as diet and nutrition, stress, environmental toxins, exercise, and alcohol use. She cites some frightening if by now familiar discoveries, such as the existence of 200 industrial chemicals that can be found in babies' umbilical cords, as well as some unusual findings, such as the discovery that women who consumed a daily dose of chocolate during their pregnancies gave birth to babies who smiled more at six months. She also exposes links between low birth weight and later cardiovascular disease, and muses upon the possibility that a dietary supplement might one day protect future children from cancer. As the author delves deeply into the vulnerabilities of the prenatal environment, she comes away with a compelling sense of the importance of how society cares for and supports pregnant women. Focusing on how to minimize harm and maximize benefit during the nine months before birth, Paul's thought-provoking text reveals that this pivotal period may be even more significant and far-reaching than ever imagined.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

As she progresses through her own pregnancy, science writer Paul, author of The Cult of Personality (2004), gracefully tells the story of gestation in nine chapters—one for each of the nine months that the fetus spends in the womb. This is an artificial conceit. Although she does sprinkle anecdotes (which readers may or may not enjoy) about her own experience in the approproprite chapters, she randomly covers the history of medical theories about prenatal development in the one-month chapter and the perils of plastics at the four-month mark. The book is well written and researched, but it would been more effective if it were organized by topic. That way, readers could easily find out more about, say, David Barker’s research that found babies who weighed less at birth had a higher risk of heart disease in middle age. Inexplicably, this is in the two-month chapter. Why wouldnt it go in nine months, when most babies are born? Still, Paul’s book is a useful, if not essential, addition to any pregnancy library. --Karen Springen

Product Details

  • File Size: 1882 KB
  • Print Length: 322 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B00BNEMIR0
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reprint edition (September 28, 2010)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003L786FU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #319,128 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
96 of 102 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great as a memoir, terrible as a pop science book January 7, 2011
I should start this review by explaining what I hope for from a popular-interest science book. I expect an explanation of a theory, discovery, or scientific concept which is accurate, fun to read, well-cited (with citations to scholarly publications so I can read them too), and well-written. I appreciate a little humor, too. Some experiential asides are fine with me, but I don't want to read an autobiography. I prefer my authors to have a science or medical background, but this is not a requirement; I love Mary Roach after all.
I was incredibly excited to read Origins. I'm currently pregnant and love reading and researching all of the odd things that happen, all the dictates given by doctors, and I'm fascinated by the history of pregnancy and childbirth. I was the first one in my library to check this out (mainly because the tech services people moved this book to the front of the line for me and gave it to me as soon as they were done).
Unfortunatly, Annie Murphy Hall falls far short of my expectations. Her book is 8 parts memoir, 1 part historical overview, 1 part interview recollections. I really don't care about her shopping trips to Whole Foods while she was pregnant. I am curious about the mercury in fish debate. Guess which got more print?
Furthermore, she is way too reliant on quotes. It was like reading a freshman's first research paper. She also falls into the same trap that drives me crazy when journalists write about science (though not all journalists)--she cites information found in newspapers and news magazines with the same level of credibility as a scholarly journal.

In short, I REALLY wanted to like this book. I love the topic and enjoyed hearing the author's interviews on NPR. But I heard far too much about her pregnancy and far too little about how pregnancy effects us before we're even born.
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92 of 111 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating... November 10, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I bought this book immediately after TIME Magazine featured it on its cover, because Ms. Paul's title asserted itself as an authority over this much needed topic. As someone who is in her early 30's and is planning to have children in the near future, I thought this book would offer in depth specifics that could help any woman give birth to a healthy baby. To her credit, Ms. Paul does cite key tips that every expecting mother should be doing to ensure a healthy child: take Folic acid and other B vitamins, exercise, reduce stress levels, eat breakfast every day, and stay mindful of the food one consumes. Moreover, she cites a few scientists and doctors who are in the process of making novel discoveries about how we can prevent birth defects and other illness that occur after birth. Ms. Paul also cities several historical events that reinforce the idea that childbirth is actually a collective effort hinging on a nation's efforts to provide basic needs. Without these provisions, children are unlikely to become productive citizens or even have the chance to live to adulthood. For this much, I think the book is a good start; however, I find much of the writing lacking in two major areas.

I understand that it's an easier read to blend her own experience as a soon-to-be mother; but as she shares her life with us, I am often reminded of her privilege as a Upper-West-Side New Yorker that allows her to make choices (often purely emotional) to ensure the health of her child while many mothers in the US (and even within New York City) can't afford to make. What's troubling about this aspect of the writing - for example - is that she'll clear her kitchen of BPA plastic products because she moved by one researcher's findings on BPA.
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36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
By Amy
I had several major issues with this book, where Ann Murphy Paul, in attempting to illustrate all the ways the fetus is impacted by the mother's actions and environment during pregnancy. First of all, she is a journalist writing about science. This is not to say that one must be a trained scientist only in order to write about anything scientific, but I often found myself questioning her methods. She gives the same weight to newspaper articles as published journals, and I often wondered how much of her research she did based off of google searches.

However, what bothered me most was her narrow-minded and somewhat blinded approach. She is an upper-class white woman who is educated and has access to top-of-the line pre-natal care, something which she seems to rub in constantly in her book. She can not separate her research from her own pregnancy, and her bias is made even more evident by her intentionality in doing everything she possibly can to avoid anything potentially harmful to her child. She describes meandering through the isles of Whole Foods, going to yoga classes and meditations, taking her folate and avoiding mercury-rich fish, tossing all of the BPA plastics out of her kitchen, avoiding any and all medications etc, in order to have the smartest and healthiest child she can. But she can not escape her own hypocrisy. She launches into the history of gender prediction, and seems to glorify the ultrasound as an actual window into her womb to see and "know" her unborn baby. Her unwillingness to question the process of ultrasound and its safety is entirely absent. Ironic for a book about how a fetus' experience in utero can have lasting impact. The truth is, though we believe ultrasounds to be safe, we truly don't know whether they are safe.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Read Emily Oster's _Expecting Better_ Instead
While being relatively well-written, this book doesn't draw on facts as much as anyone really seeking knowledge would hope to have. Read more
Published 17 hours ago by jennifermassage
5.0 out of 5 stars good
Great information and made one's processing of information change while reading this text book. I'm glad to know the Origin.
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars Unhappy
I had thought that it was common knowledge now that to elect for a cesarian section is madness.
Current research has now shown the importance to human health and life, of the... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Lynne
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't have a baby without reading this
Marvelous book. Should be on the reading list for high school science class. And on your doctor's list of pregnancy vitimins.
Published 7 months ago by bigfoot
4.0 out of 5 stars The most important days of life!
My wife ordered this. She was pleased! It seems that the more we learn about prenatal care and early childhood, the more impactful it appears to be.
Published 9 months ago by Carly SUF
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book for expecting mothers
I've only read a portion of the book, that's why it's only four stars, but so far I have thoroughly enjoyed the information and the light hearted writing style of the author. Read more
Published 10 months ago by KELLY J LINDMEIER
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read for fututre parents
EVERYONE should read this book....future moms, dads, citizens of a healthy, productive society. Not only is this book well-written and fluid to read and understand, it is packed... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Heather
5.0 out of 5 stars Great reading!
Really interesting and well written book. I would recommend it for anyone interested in human origins especially while you are pregnant.
Published 13 months ago by fmr
5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative...
This book successfully walks the fine line between scaring a new mother and serving us pertinent information so that we make better decisions. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Kathia J. Ogando
1.0 out of 5 stars Kindle edition cannot be "loaned"
I enjoyed the book, but then I wanted to Kindle-lend it to a friend when I was done. Unfortunately, the publisher does not allow the kindle edition to be borrowed. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Ashley Shade
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