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A science writer expecting her own child explores the new social and scientific frontier of pregnancy, introducing a fascinating new chapter in the nature-nurture debate.
Annie Murphy Paul is a Yale graduate and a former senior editor at Psychology Today. Currently a freelance writer, she has contributed to Discover, Salon.com, and Self, among others. She is also the author of The Cult of Personality (Free Press, September 2004).
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.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
A new book suggests, our experiences in the womb shape us for the rest of our lives. The Sunday Telegraph Annie Murphy Paul, a gifted science writer, combines impeccable science, extraordinary tenderness and lyrical prose to produce a truly revolutionary chronicle of pregnancy. In Origins, she shows that pregnancy is not a condition to be endured but the first nine months of being a mother, a time full of far-reaching choices. Origins is sweet, smart and very fresh. You'll never think about pregnancy the same way again. Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind One of the most influential environments on Earth lies within women's bodies, the still mysterious world of the womb where all of us spend the beginning months of our lives. In her fascinating book, Annie Murphy Paul explores this strange and wonderful first home, both as a science journalist investigating the critical first steps in human development and as an expectant mother thinking about how a child grows ready for the world outside. The combination, and the lessons contained in both journeys, make Origins an irresistible - and important - way to better understand ourselves. Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York In this brilliant book, Annie Murphy Paul shows us that groundbreaking research on fetal origins is not a cause for fear or anxiety, but for wonder and even hope. Ethan Watters, author of Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche Annie Murphy Paul elegantly assembles the evidence to prove what mothers have felt all along-that what happens in those mysterious months before birth shapes the child that emerges in fundamental ways. Insightful, enjoyable and profound. Lisa Sanders, M.D., author of The New York Times Magazine's "Diagnosis" column and of "Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis" What goes on during pregnancy is a scientific puzzle as mysterious and fascinating as what goes on inside an atom. In Origins, Annie Murphy Paul probes the murky realm in which our futures as human beings are forged. She combines in-depth reporting on cutting-edge research with a personal memoir of her own pregnancy and the anxieties and insights it produced. The result is an important, elegant piece of science writing. Carl Zimmer, author of Soul Made Flesh The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution Exciting, cutting-edge scientific research in the field of epigenetics has changed the way the medical profession looks at pregnancy, and we are fortunate to have Annie Murphy Paul as our guide through this fascinating new terrain. With stellar insight and expansive research, Origins is a thrilling survey of how fetal origins is changing the way we think about the nine months before birth. Dr. Mehmet Oz, author of YOU: Having a Baby, YOU: Raising Your Child, and YOU: On a Diet Annie Murphy Paul's Origins delights from the first sentence onward. Engaging and fresh, it answers a host of compelling questions about what is really happening between mother and child as the outside world makes its way inside in those crucial nine months of fetal development-like why you may not want to drink from plastic bottles, and what happens when you're stressed, and what about the air we breathe. While Origins deserves a place on every expectant parent's bookshelf, it should be of deep interest to anyone who has ever spent time in a womb. Sue Halpern, author of Can't Remember What I Forgot: The Good News from the Front Lines of Memory Research and Migrations to Solitude: The Quest for Privacy in a Crowded World Origins is, quite simply, a must-read for parents-in-waiting-and for anyone interested in what makes us who we are. Paul has written a superb introduction to the emerging science of fetal origins. There are still a lot more questions than answers, but this book shows how science is -- at long last -- engaging deeply with the reality that a pregnant woman's lifestyle can dramatically impact the future life of her child. David Shenk, author of The Genius in All of Us and The Forgetting Can what we experience in the womb affect us for the rest of our lives? In a word: yes. As Annie Murphy Paul shows in this fascinating exploration of a new line of research, the fetus not only grows and develops in utero--it actively prepares for life in the world outside, reading signals the mother's body is sending about whether there will be plenty or want, hardship or happiness, and fashioning itself accordingly. The implications-for policy, for prenatal care, for parenting-are endlessly important. Liza Mundy, author of Michelle and Everything Conceivable A trek through the new frontier of 'fetal origins,' with a smart, savvy, motivated guide - Annie Murphy Paul, pregnant with her second child and driven to figure out what's going on in there. She lucidly describes what scientists are learning about the life-long impact of those first nine months, from the mother's diet to her stress level, from the BPA in plastic to the call and response of the "fetal-maternal dance." Read it with pleasure, and brace yourself for some surprises. Robin Marantz Henig, author of Pandora's Baby: How the First Test Tube Babies Sparked the Reproductive Revolution This is a terrific book on a fascinating and largely unexplored subject-the mysteries of prenatal development. It is lucid, scientifically accurate and clear and gracefully written. Combining good science and a personal perspective is rare, especially in writing about children and motherhood, but Annie Paul has accomplished it beautifully. Alison Gopnik, author of The Scientist in the Crib and The Philosophical Baby The secret to a healthy life lies in the nine months before we're born...The woman who says mums-to-be must watch what they eat, drink and even think if their baby is to have a happy life. The Times Magazine From obesity to cancer, is your health destiny set while you're still in the womb? Daily Mail