Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Origins by Annie Murphy Paul

Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our LivesOrigins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives by Annie Murphy Paul
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An interesting, well-researched book on how the influences on the fetus during pregnancy affect the child throughout its life. The book has a good organization and numerous scientific studies to back up the claims. Unfortunately, it's also gimmicky and tries to provide pregnant mothers with empty assurances that ring hollow relative to the actual studies.

One thing I intensely disliked about this book was the chapter titles: "One Month- Nine Months" actually provides no information about what the chapters are about but is just a cutesy way of imitating basic pregnancy books, and also a shoutout to the fact that the author is herself pregnant as she writes this book. (Though I hope this is indeed a gimmick and she didn't rush through this book in 9 months.)

So here is the breakdown:
One Month- A basic introduction to the book

Two Months- How the food the mother eats affects the offspring throughout his or her life

Three Months- How traumatic stress for the mom during pregnancy affects the offspring for life

Four Months- The dangers of alcohol, cigarette smoking, prescription drugs, pollution, plastics, and other chemicals in everyday products (total horror here) that can cause either immediate birth defects or later-in-life cancers in the offspring.

Five Months- Some rambling about the history of gender predictions (and some subsequent scientific studies confirming some old wives tales), quickening, and sonograms. Finally: only 20 to 40 percent of fertilized eggs result in live birth, the rest are lost to miscarriage often before a woman knows she's pregnant. Numerous factors can prevent male embryos from succeeding relative to the number of female embryos that succeed: pollution, economic depressions, natural disasters, etc... or skipping breakfast. (Skip breakfast to have a girl, eat a lot of cereal for breakfast to have a boy. Or maybe this study is totally wrong- and it's just chance.)

Six Months- The effects of partum and post-partum depression

Seven Months- A more broad exploration of studies in progress concerning the prenatal origins of numerous adult diseases, abilities, or personality traits.

Eight Months- Again as in Chapter 7, specifically looking at the effect of large-scale traumatic events, (as in Chapter 3).

Nine Months- The effects of the process of birth itself: whether natural, assisted birth, or Cesearean, and other birth factors such as time of year the baby is born.

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