How the First Nine Months Shape the Rest of Your Life

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Heide Benser / Corbis

In this week’s TIME cover story, author Annie Murphy Paul writes: “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?”

From the article, adapted from Paul’s forthcoming book Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives (Sept. 2010, Free Press):

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.

Read the article here.

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