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Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives Paperback – July 5, 2011
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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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
- The overall message, what happens to the mother impacts her baby is important and should be taken to heart
- As a runner, I appreciated the connection between maternal exercise and the increase in fetal intelligence
- The author consults a wide panel of experts
- A wide variety of topics are discussed, including maternal diet, mood, exercise, overall health, as well as genetics, homosexuality, and protective instincts
- At times the text became a bit boring, especially towards the end. At times there was too much history and not enough biology
- I didn't feel like anything was concrete; obviously it's hard to be definite when dealing with an up and coming branch of science, but I felt as if there were a lot of maybes
- The way the text is set up is misleading; I thought that you would learn what was happening to the fetus at each step of the nine months (each chapter is a month), and what the mother could do to help her baby. Instead, it's the month where the author is at her own pregnancy, and just her musings and research during that month. What she discusses at month eight could have been discussed at month two.
- I don't feel like I learned that much
I don't suggest buying this book, especially not the hardback! It was interesting at times, more so the first few chapters, but I did not end with a satisfied feeling that other nonfiction books give you.
First of all, I don't know whether it was author's general style or she was forced by her editor's commercial pressure but frankly I'm really bored to death with so many personal details and the over-worked narrative structure of the book. Readers of The New Yorker may be buying this sort of story-telling and I'm not against a story told well, however there is neither a coherent nor a very well told story here. A 288 page book could easily be condensed into 100 or less pages without sacrificing any fact related to the prenatal development.
The author is free to want a boy as her second child but I'm still wondering what this has got to do with the topic of the book. Does the gender preference of mothers affect the children in any way? I would be more than happy if she cared to provide some research about this after every sentence in which she repeated how much she wanted a boy.
Another quite disappointing part was when she mentioned Caesarean section (C-section) only in a few sentences and simply said that this type of childbirth helped her mark her calendar exactly for the day her child will come. How convenient for a busy New York mother indeed! I was expecting at least some discussion against the C-section as well as elaborate arguments supporting it. But maybe I was asking for too much. (Funny thing is that when she writes about maternal leave she mentions a scientist that claims maternal leave "makes good economic sense, since C-sections cost more and require more recovery time for the mother.")
The parts where author gives priority to how very young fetuses are shaped by their mother's environment as well as shaping the mother's biology provide lots of food for thought (and in some cases, food for thought is literally meant, the author gives examples on how famines as well as ordinary food choices affect babies long after they have been born). As long as you can supress your feelings during the sections where very irrelevant personal details and political judgments are repeated you'll have the advantage of learning the contemporary landscape of prenatal development research from a popular science perspective.
We need to *know.* We deserve to *know.* Fully *know.*
What formed our ways? Our desires? Our likes and dislikes? Our Life?
Annie, we all owe you an incredible and deepest heart-felt "Thank you!" for telling it like it is, all our hidden cravings and weird desires, and why "normal" people try to ostracize those of us who don't fit their complex-shaped little boxes and filters.
Thanks, Annie Murphy Paul