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

09/24/2010

Its been sometime that I have posted on any exciting new books. Origins by Annie Murphy Paul is a new book throwing light on the science of fetal origins. Most of us must have heard the story of Abhimanyu listening to his father Arjuna and gaining vital knowledge on the science of warfare when he was in his mother’s womb. The less spiritually inclined among us must have scoffed at the idea of the foetus gaining knowledge during the course of pregnancy. New research is exceedingly proving that to be absolutely true. The foundations of your lifelong health are laid in those nine months .Also laid are the foundations for your mental traits and intelligence.

http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2020815,00.html

Time magazine has a great new article on the same topic by Annie . Article follows

What makes us the way we are? Why are some people predisposed to be anxious, overweight or asthmatic? How is it that some of us are prone to heart attacks, diabetes or high blood pressure?

There’s a list of conventional answers to these questions. We are the way we are because it’s in our genes. We turn out the way we do because of our childhood experiences. Or our health and well-being stem from the lifestyle choices we make as adults.

But there’s another powerful source of influence you may not have considered: your life as a fetus. The nutrition you received in the womb; the pollutants, drugs and infections you were exposed to during gestation; your mother’s health and state of mind while she was pregnant with you — all these factors shaped you as a baby and continue to affect you to this day.

This is the provocative contention of a field known as fetal origins, whose pioneers assert that the nine months of gestation constitute the most consequential period of our lives, permanently influencing the wiring of the brain and the functioning of organs such as the heart, liver and pancreas. In the literature on the subject, which has exploded over the past 10 years, you can find references to the fetal origins of cancer, cardiovascular disease, allergies, asthma, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, mental illness. At the farthest edge of fetal-origins research, scientists are exploring the possibility that intrauterine conditions influence not only our physical health but also our intelligence, temperament, even our sanity.

As a journalist who covers science, I was intrigued when I first heard about fetal origins. But two years ago, when I began to delve more deeply into the field, I had a more personal motivation: I was newly pregnant. If it was true that my actions over the next nine months would affect my offspring for the rest of his life, I needed to know more.

Of course, no woman who is pregnant today can escape hearing the message that what she does affects her fetus. She hears it at doctor’s appointments, sees it in the pregnancy guidebooks: Do eat this, don’t drink that, be vigilant but never stressed. Expectant mothers could be forgiven for feeling that pregnancy is just a nine-month slog, full of guilt and devoid of pleasure, and this research threatened to add to the burden.

But the scientists I met weren’t full of dire warnings but of the excitement of discovery — and the hope that their discoveries would make a positive difference. Research on fetal origins is prompting a revolutionary shift in thinking about where human qualities come from and when they begin to develop. It’s turning pregnancy into a scientific frontier: the National Institutes of Health embarked last year on a multidecade study that will examine its subjects before they’re born. And it makes the womb a promising target for prevention, raising hopes of conquering public-health scourges like obesity and heart disease through interventions before birth.

Also Annie’s book is available on Amazon

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.

Origins-Science of Fetal Origins

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