What makes us the way we are? Some say its the genes we inherit at conception. Others are sure it’s the environment we experience in childhood. But could it be that many of our individual characteristics – our health, our intelligence, our temperaments – are influenced by the conditions we encountered before birth?
That’s the claim of an exciting and provocative field known as fetal origins. Over the past 20 years, scientists have been developing a radically new understanding of our very earliest experiences and how they exert lasting effects on us from infancy well into adulthood. Their research offers a bold new view of pregnancy as a crucial staging ground for our health, ability, and well-being throughout life.
Author and journalist Annie Murphy Paul ventures into the laboratories of fetal researchers, interviews experts from around the world, and delves into the rich history of ideas about how we’re shaped before birth. She discovers dramatic stories: how individuals gestated during the Nazi siege of Holland in World War II are still feeling its consequences decades later; how pregnant women who experienced the 9/11 attacks passed their trauma on to their offspring in the womb; how a lab accident led to the discovery of a common household chemical that can harm the developing fetus; how the study of a century-old flu pandemic reveals the high personal and societal costs of poor prenatal experience.
Origins also brings to light astonishing scientific findings: how a single exposure to an environmental toxin may produce damage that is passed on to multiple generations; how conditions as varied as diabetes, heart disease, and mental illness may get their start in utero; why the womb is medicine’s latest target for the promotion of lifelong health, from preventing cancer to reducing obesity.
Narrator: Elisabeth Rodgers
Duration: 8 hours 47 minutes
Released: 10 Dec 2010
Publisher: Audible Studios