Why Expectant Mothers Can Just Chill Out – Facts So Romantic


When philosopher Nicolas Malebranche peered at a fetus floating in a glass jar, in a shop of curiosities in Paris in 1672, he blamed its monstrous shape on the mother. At the time it was believed that a mother could deform her fetus simply by looking at something vivid. Malebranche had heard that this particular fetus’ mother had stared “too long” at a painting of Pope Pius V and so “gave birth to a child who looked exactly like the representation of the saint.” The specimen had skin as wrinkled as an old man’s and an abnormally small forehead. Its thin arms were folded over its chest as if it were a corpse at a funeral, and between its tiny shoulders were markings in the shape of a pope’s hat, or so Malebranche thought.

While Malebranche’s thinking seems crude by our standards, we are today still asking the same underlying question: How does a pregnant woman impact her fetus? That her effect can be profound is commonly taken as a given. News headlines from the past few years like “Should You Bring Your Unborn Baby to Work?”, “Mother’s Diet During Pregnancy Alters Baby’s DNA,”

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