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The "nervous system environment" a girl absorbs during her first two years becomes a view of reality that will affect her for the rest of her life. Studies in mammals now show that this early stress versus calm incorporation—called epigenetic imprinting—can be passed down through several generations. Research in mammals by Michael Meaney's group has shown that female offspring are highly affected by how calm and nurturing their mothers are. This relation has also been shown in human females and nonhuman primates. Stressed mothers naturally become less nurturing, and their baby girls incorporate stressed nervous systems that change the girls' perception of reality. This isn't about what's learned cognitively—it's about what is absorbed by the cellular microcircuitry at the neurological level. This may explain why some sisters can have amazingly different outlooks. It appears that boys may not incorporate so much of their mothers' nervous system.

Neurological incorporation begins during pregnancy. Maternal stress during pregnancy has effects on the emotional and stress hormone reactions, particularly in female offspring. These effects were measured in goat kids. The stressed female kids ended up startling more easily and being less calm and more anxious than the male kids after birth. Furthermore, female kids who were stressed in utero showed a great deal more emotional distress than female kids who weren't. So if you're a girl about to enter the womb, plan to be born to an unstressed mom who has a calm, loving partner and family to support her. And if you are a mom-to-be carrying a female fetus, take it easy so that your daughter will be able to relax.

Copyright © 2006 by Louann Brizendine

From the book The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, published by Broadway Books, a division of Random House, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.

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