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Customer Review

98 of 117 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating..., November 10, 2010
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This review is from: Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives (Hardcover)
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. She continues to write about her fears of BPA which is found in almost all the products we have. As I read this, I start getting antsy, but also helpless and wanting to hear other findings. Ms. Paul cited one scientist who is studying this. What about others? And what about other mothers who can't just throw away all their plastic and afford glass containers and Kleen Kanteen bottles? What are they going to do?

Throughout the book, Ms. Paul highlights certain historical events and other circumstances (ie: living in LA) which can produce a potential threat to an unborn fetus. Again, I start feeling nervous and wonder what I can do. Ms. Paul thinly resolves my concerns by glossing over current research and at times quotes no longer than a sentence from a scientist about their findings. There are too many examples of these passages and they are just not enough information for anyone to make an educated decision on how to move forward. At best I am left with mulling over her own testimonials and guessing it might be the right choice -- but I'm not sure. I'm also not sure about her self created term "Fetal Origins" because much of her book blurs the line between personal experiences and cliff-note science. It's more accurate to rename the title: "How the Nine Months Before Birth CAN SHAPE the Rest of Our Lives." Ms. Paul is no authority.

On the whole, this book will be useful to anyone who has the luxury of being anxious and has the means to take whatever measures they can to birth a healthy child. To a more critical reader, you may only find more substantial information in the NOTES section of the book to figure out what's hype versus fact. I would however, recommend this book to local and national policy makers. Again, Ms. Paul makes a point which should not be ignored: if you want to ensure a productive future for the state, ensure the well being of the most vulnerable -- the unborn.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 23, 2010 3:21:02 PM PST
I totally agree.

Posted on Jan 11, 2011 6:22:29 PM PST
sara says:
People can get carried away with the fancy brand name BPA-free products. I am sitting here drinking water (from our tap) out of a quart canning jar I picked up at the thrift store for about 35 cents. We buy them up whenever we see them, and what we don't use for canning, we have to store our leftovers in, drink tea from (too hot for your hands you say? pick up a wool sweater while you are thrifting and felt it (shrink it) in the washer/dryer. cut the sleeve and put it around the jar) , etc. We CAN birth a healthy baby on a budget, we just need to be creative and open about it!

Posted on Jan 11, 2011 6:27:47 PM PST
sara says:
People can get carried away with the fancy brand name BPA-free products. I am sitting here drinking water (from our tap) out of a quart canning jar I picked up at the thrift store for about 35 cents. We buy them up whenever we see them, and what we don't use for canning, we have to store our leftovers in, drink tea from (too hot for your hands you say? pick up a wool sweater while you are thrifting and felt it (shrink it) in the washer/dryer. cut the sleeve and put it around the jar) , etc. We CAN birth a healthy baby on a budget, we just need to be creative and open about it!

Posted on Jan 23, 2011 10:53:58 PM PST
"what about other mothers who can't just throw away all their plastic and afford glass"
funny, we CAN'T live without plastic!
but at least we can try - glass is often cheaper or free. If I buy something in a plastic I immediately put it in the glass jar.
Mothers just don't want to make an effort and so they don't like to hear about the dangers.

Posted on Apr 6, 2011 1:30:34 PM PDT
that guy says:
Best line:

"...if you want to ensure a productive future for the state, ensure the well being of the most vulnerable -- the unborn."

Think about it.

Posted on May 5, 2013 8:42:11 AM PDT
I think you're underplaying the research that went into this book, which is pretty extensive. It's not a how-to book, for one-- it's a book on the emerging science of fetal origins (which she didn't coin, as you mistakenly write). The keyword here is emerging; in many cases, the science is so new (which Paul reiterates a number of times) that there isn't necessarily a good prescription for what to do. Having said that, I thought it was pretty clear. It sounds like you're annoyed that this wasn't the medical advice text you wanted, when that's not what it set out to be-- it's a popular science book. I found it fascinating and very helpful as someone who plans to be pregnant in the near future.

Posted on May 5, 2013 8:59:06 AM PDT
It's also worth noting that there is a lot more background research than is apparent if you read the hardcover edition, which lacks citations to the notes. The Kindle edition has links, which I found very helpful.
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