Why I’m NOT panicking about the fetal origins hypothesis

creatista

Last night I read an article in The Economist about prenatal care (great opener, hey? Right up there with dreaming of Manderlay).

This article was about the “Fetal Origins Hypothesis,” a theory that says pretty much everything you do in pregnancy affects your little darlings in later life. Oh excellent.

I only read the article in the first place to avoid avoiding reading it.

I didn’t do much Googling afterwards, because I suffer from OCD and the people I pay to tell me what to do say Googling is a very bad idea. I only read the article in the first place to avoid avoiding reading it. (It’s always a fine balance for the recovering obsessive compulsive – don’t avoid, but then having not avoided, the key is not to descend into a 12 hour Google bender. Basically, I must pretend to be normal in the hope that I might become normal.)

Back to the article. Now at first I felt all defensive, Give Us Mothers a Break, and so on. But then I realised that it wasn’t being judgy, it was just being pragmatic about using public policy to ensure optimal fetal outcomes and to save money. Presumably so a new generation of poor sods are better equipped to pay taxes to fund more studies that put the fear of God in them.

Studies that say even though your lovely newborn might appear to be totally healthy at birth lurking inside them might be some damage from that time you went for a walk on the smoggiest day of the year. Or didn’t go for a walk. Or ate a packet of Butterkist popcorn. Or didn’t. Or were stressed because of all the advice telling you not to be stressed. Or experienced grief. Or conceived during a time of international strife, or famine, or in the shadow of a nuclear disaster. Any of these things could have set up a ticking time bomb in your little angel and you have no way of knowing.

More or less everything might or might not affect your baby one way or another. When you turn left down the street instead of right. When you stay up too late to watch the end of Lewis.

This is OCD Gold Dust.

But I’m not here to talk about OCD, I’m talking about the fetal origins hypothesis which suggests that more or less everything might or might not affect your baby one way or another. When you turn left down the street instead of right. When you stay up too late to watch the end of Lewis. When you decide not to go out because you have a cold. When you go out despite the fact you have a cold. Everything!

There is some good news though: according to another hypothesis, the Many Worlds Theory, there are infinite other universes and every possible alternative is played out in one or other of them. So, on the positive, there is a universe out there where you have the perfect pregnancy. The bad news: it’s probably not this one.

At the end of the day everything we do carries risk and every decision we make alters the course of our time on Earth, however subtly. That’s called being alive. A butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil, etcetera. I’m not trying to debunk the fetal origins hypothesis. If anything it makes sense to me: something happens, something else might result from this happening. A might lead to B, or C, or D.

I’m not saying “So I Live In London’s Most Polluted Borough, What Am I Meant To Do? Move To Bloody Siberia?” (Where actually, food scarcity could bring its own prenatal challenges). Or “Are You Telling Me I Put My Baby At Risk By Having a Drink At My Sister’s Wedding?” (Are you? Seriously, I need to know). That’s not what I’m doing either.

Better to get on with living and seeing where each decision takes you.

What I’m doing is saying – probably to no-one, I haven’t written anything online before – is that it’s no good getting hung up on all these studies with their standard deviations and cofounding factors and Introductions and Conclusions and Non-Conclusions.

Unless, of course, that’s your job, in which case please carry on. But if it’s not and you are reading them because you have full-blown OCD, or are just partial to a bit of internet based masochism, then it’s not helpful. Better to get on with living and seeing where each decision takes you.

It’s not always easy, but that’s what it’s all about, right? Some things are obviously a bad idea (which hasn’t always stopped me in the past, providing me with my own independent abstracts, methodologies and miserable bloody conclusions). But we, as mothers, hell, as people, have to just get on with it.

So, in the words of everyone who has ever been told that this is the worst possible thing you can tell a depressive, or an obsessive compulsive, or generalised anxiety sufferer, or a Google-saturated hypochondriac: Chin Up!

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