Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives

Annie Murphy Paul, Author
Annie Murphy Paul, Free Press, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7432-9662-5
Reviewed on: 08/02/2010
Release date: 09/01/2010
Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4391-7184-4
Paperback - 306 pages - 978-0-7432-9663-2
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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. (Sept.)
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