Origins: A Pregnancy Book Review

5 years ago
I’m a reader. Recent books on my nightstand have included The Hunger Games, Freedom, and People of the Book--great stories all, steeped in plot twists and imagination and unforgettable characters, and each of them fiction. For whatever reason, this has usually been the type of reading I’m pulled to. Something, perhaps, about being swept up into other lives or places or events that I might not otherwise experience. But lately, these kinds of books have taken the back seat to nonfiction texts, and it’s pretty obvious why.

I’m four months pregnant. And pregnancy, it seems, has swept me into a life and into emotional and physical places and into rounded-belly events that are new enough to me all on their own. I don’t need a story full of plot twists when my own life is currently so full of them.

Early on I skimmed through a few informational pregnancy books, and even an out-of-date but amusing edition of The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy. The only related book I’ve read straight through, though, has been Annie Murphy Paul’s Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape The Rest of Our Lives. The inside flap begins with a fascinating series of questions:

What makes us the way we are? Some say it’s 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?

Paul’s belief is yes, our intrauterine experiences do have far-reaching effects on the way we live our lives. She’s come to this conclusion based on a heap of research from the scientific field known as fetal origins. Although relatively young (twenty years), this field is full of scientists passionate about the nine months of pregnancy and how they may be a “crucial staging ground for our health, ability, and well-being throughout life.” Paul looks at this research by splitting it up into nine major topics, which she addresses by month. Personally, I was fascinated by the chapters on environmental stress, the history of gender identification, and maternal mental health. I kept interrupting my husband during his own reading or TV watching or meal chewing: “Did you know that one study out of Finland found that pregnant women who ate chocolate every day reported that their six-month old babies showed less fear and smiled and laughed more?!”

Admittedly, Paul is a science writer, and she does address a lot of research studies, so if science was never your thing and nonfiction bores you to tears, then maybe this book isn’t for you. However, Paul wrote Origins while pregnant with her second child, and manages to effectively weave her personal experiences with pregnancy into an otherwise information-heavy book. This makes it read almost like a memoir, and as a pregnant woman, I found myself being able to relate to her observations, questions, and feelings time and time again. It also made me want to create the best pre-world experience for my child, so that when Baby is born, he or she will have already lived the best nine months that I was able to give.  

How about you? Have you ever read this book? What are your thoughts on fetal origins?  Have any other pregnancy-related books you’d recommend?

To follow Emily's pregnancy journey, visit her at She also writes and showcases place-focused photography at her personal blog Landing on Cloudy Water.
This is an article written by one of the incredible members of the SheKnows Community. The SheKnows editorial team has not edited, vetted or endorsed the content of this post. Want to join our amazing community and share your own story? Sign up here.

More from health

by Rebecca Reagan
| 6 hours ago
by Jen S. Glantz
| 3 days ago
by Kathleen-Mae Ramas
| 3 days ago
by Kathleen-Mae Ramas
| 4 days ago