At Risk From the Womb
The New York TimesBy Nicholas D. Kristof
October 2, 2010
Some people think we’re shaped primarily by genes. Others believe that the environment we grow up in is most important. But now evidence is mounting that a third factor is also critical: our uterine environment before we’re even born.
Researchers are finding indications that obesity, diabetes and mental illness among adults are all related in part to what happened in the womb decades earlier.
Stress in mothers seems to have particularly strong effects on their offspring, perhaps through release of cortisol, a hormone released when a person is anxious. Studies show that children who were in utero during the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War of 1967 were more likely to have schizophrenia diagnosed as adults. And The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that Chinese born during the terrible famine from 1959 to 1961 were twice as likely to develop schizophrenia as those born at other times.
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