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All in the womb.

  • Armstrong, Sue
  • Audio

About this work


Broadcaster Sue Armstrong explores whether Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be passed from mother to child in the womb. First, Cathy Langford recounts her experiences going into labour during the 9/11 disaster in the US, which led Langford to develop PTSD. Clinical Social Worker Mary Fetchet talks about losing her son in the disaster, and subsequently setting up the support group Voices of September 11th. Director of Mental Health Dr Rachel Yehuda explains her research into trauma exposure and PTSD, using psychological studies and clinical observations. She goes on to explain the function of cortisol. Holocaust survivor Fanya Heller describes the residual trauma she experiences since escaping Nazi imprisonment in WWII. Daughter of holocaust survivors Cissy Lacks recounts events in her life, and talks about her experiences of second-generation PTSD. Heller’s children recount how traumatic memories of the Holocaust fed into their daily lives. Yehuda describes her findings from a study into low cortisol levels in Holocaust survivors and their offspring. Audio recordings of reports from the 9/11 disaster are played. Next, Langford continues recounting her experiences of labour during the disaster. Yehuda then describes a study into cortisol levels in babies born of survivors of 9/11. Armstrong describes Yehuda’s study into epigenetics with Hormone Specialist Professor Jonathan Seckl. Armstrong and Seckl explain epigenetics, chemical switches, and maternal PTSD. Yehuda posits that more attention is needed on research into the connection between trauma and physical illnesses. Seckl explains how epigenetic changes work on our genes. Seckl and Yehuda debate the possibility of altering and erasing biochemical pathways, and suggest how the future of research into the relationship between extreme trauma exposure and epigenetics will evolve. Fetchet talks about instances of maternal PTSD she has witnessed in 9/11 offspring. Finally, Yehuda suggests that how we as a society react to trauma survivors can greatly affect their prospects for recovery.



Physical description

1 CD (30 min) ; 12 cm


Originally broadcast on 19th April 2016 on BBC Radio 4.

Creator/production credits

Produced by Ruth Evans.
Presented by Sue Armstrong.

Copyright note

A Ruth Evans Production for BBC Radio 4.


  • English

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