Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Review: Origins

Preface: I'm not sure how you guys are feeling about my book reviews this year, but it's something I've decided to do once a week, which is about how often I finish a book. I figure I enjoy it, so why the heck not? If you do not enjoy it, though, I won't hold it against you if you skip Review Day.

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

Book: Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives
Author: Annie Murphy Paul
Genre: Developmental psychology/pregnancy & childbirth/women's health
Publish Date: September 28, 2010
Length: 320 pages hardcover
How long it took me to read: 1 week
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I know what you're thinking --

That I have serious issues when it comes to reading books about pregnancy and childbirth, when in fact I am not pregnant, nor do I have kids. And you would be right, my friend! But I am preparing myself for the possibility of one day becoming pregnant and/or having children. Currently I content myself with being a very well-educated childless woman.

Actually, regardless of whether you have kids, this is an interesting read. The book is about how your experience in the womb can affect your health and your personality for the rest of your life. Some of the scientific results Paul discusses in the book are pretty surprising, and some of them are admittedly not that surprising (you mean I should eat healthy and exercise in order to have a healthy baby? You don't say).

Paul is a science journalist, and writes in a smart, objective, but personable way that appeals to me. And, at the time that she wrote this book, she was pregnant with her second son and gave birth to him. One of the reasons I am giving this book four stars instead of five is that when she discusses her own son's birth, she does not explain her reasons for her birth plan, which I won't give away. But, in this day and age of women taking their births back from the medical establishments, I think it would have served the book well if she'd discussed this.

Anyway, let's talk about some of the meaty, really interesting stuff (If you want to read about ALL of the interesting stuff without a single spoiler, probably skip the rest of the review and just read the book). What I found out is that, obviously, getting proper nutrition is important, but actually so important that eating the right food could potentially protect your child from certain diseases, including cancer and obesity, for the rest of their life. Vegetables and green tea seem to have amazing disease-fighting properties.

Additionally, eating too much and gaining too much weight can contribute to a fetus' obesity later in life, as can eating too little. Lesson: Eat juuuuust enough. Don't starve the fetus, man! 

And can I tell you how happy I was to read that pregnant women who had five or more servings per week of chocolate had a 40% lower risk of preeclampsia and produce happier children. Done and done!

There is also some fascinating information regarding a fetus' ability to inherit post traumatic stress disorder, and a link to schizophrenia. Long story short: stay very Zen when you're pregnant, barring apocalyptic world events. But a little stress at work isn't going to hurt anyone and may even be beneficial.

Also of interest is a study finding that delivery methods may affect a child's response to pain, potentially for the rest of her life. Basically, the more painful the delivery (for the child), the more harshly that child will respond to pain. The same findings apply for male children who are circumcised shortly after being born -- they tend to respond more strongly to pain stimuli, such as when receiving vaccinations. I'm sure the anti-circumcision folks are already well aware of that little study. For the record, I have no opinion on circumcision at the moment and don't plan to ever have one unless I have a boy, in which case I will probably read four books about it and then decide.

There are a lot more very interesting findings in the book, which I think is a valuable read for anyone who is pregnant or wants to be, or even anyone who is simply curious about fetal origins.

Next week: I'll probably review The Genie in Your Genes; Epigenetic Medicine and the New Biology of Intention, which was strongly recommended by a friend. So far I am thinking it should have been titled Heal Thyself, but I may change my mind.


  1. So I am taking full credit for the wonderful person that you have become. And all because of what I ate while pregnant! Ha ha haaaaaa! Actually it's a wonder...oh well never mind.

  2. FASCINATING. But you knew I would say that. I have got to read this book! Shit, now I have two books to read, which means it'll be next year before I finish them.

    First of all, I say well done you for doing all this reading. Seriously, it is so important to be educated in this regard because, as the book indicates, even the time in the womb is critical. Pregnancy, birth and parenting should not be taken lightly. They are a big damn deal in my opinion. :)

    Also, interesting about circumcision. I had not heard that before and I honestly am a little surprised by it. It make sense, but it does not explain a lot of men.... unless a lot of men are just masochists.

    I also think I must not have eaten enough chocolate during my pregnancy.

    Going to Amazon now!