Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong--and What You Really Need to Know
By Emily Oster
(Penguin Press HC, The, Hardcover, 9781594204753, 336pp.)
Publication Date: August 20, 2013
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What to Expect When You're Expecting meets Freakonomics: an award-winning economist disproves standard recommendations about pregnancy to empower women while they're expecting
Pregnancyunquestionably one of the most profound, meaningful experiences of adulthoodcan reduce otherwise intelligent women to, well, babies. We’re told to avoid cold cuts, sushi, alcohol, and coffee, but aren’t told why these are forbidden. Rules for prenatal testing are hard and fastand unexplained. Are these recommendations even correct? Are all of them right for every mom-to-be? In Expecting Better, award-winning economist Emily Oster proves that pregnancy rules are often misguided and sometimes flat-out wrong.
A mom-to-be herself, Oster debunks the myths of pregnancy using her particular mode of critical thinking: economics, the study of how we get what we want. Oster knows that the value of anythinga home, an amniocentesisis in the eyes of the informed beholder, and like any complicated endeavor, pregnancy is not a one-size-fits-all affair. And yet medicine often treats it as such. Are doctors working from bad data? Are well-meaning friends and family perpetuating false myths and raising unfounded concerns? Oster’s answer is yes, and often.
Pregnant women face an endless stream of decisions, from the casual (Can I eat this?) to the frightening (Is it worth risking a miscarriage to test for genetic defects?). Expecting Better presents the hard facts and real-world advice you’ll never get at the doctor’s office or in the existing literature. Oster’s revelatory work identifies everything from the real effects of caffeine and tobacco to the surprising dangers of gardening.
Any expectant mother knows that the health of her baby is paramount, but she will be less anxious and better able to enjoy a healthy pregnancy if she is informed . . . and can have the occasional glass of wine.
* * *
Numbers are not subject to someone else’s interpretationmath doesn’t lie. Expectant economist Emily Oster set out to inform parents-to-be about the truth of pregnancy using the most up-to-date data so that they can make the best decisions for their pregnancies. The results she found were often very surprising
· It’s fine to have the occasional glass of wine even one every day in the second and third trimesters.
· There is nothing to fear from sushi, but do stay away from raw milk cheese.
· Sardines and herring are the fish of choice to give your child those few extra IQ points.
· There is no evidence that bed rest is helpful in preventing or treating any complications of pregnancy.
· Many unnecessary labor inductions could be avoided by simply staying hydrated.
· Epidurals are great for pain relief and fine for your baby, but they do carry some risks for mom.
· Limiting women to ice chips during labor is an antiquated practice; you should at least be able to sneak in some Gatorade.
· You shouldn’t worry about dyeing your hair or cleaning the cat’s litter box, but gardening while pregnant can actually be risky.
· Hot tubs, hot baths, hot yoga: avoid (at least during the first trimester).
· You should be more worried about gaining too little weight during pregnancy than gaining too much.
· Most exercise during pregnancy is fine (no rock climbing!), but there isn’t much evidence that it has benefits. Except for exercising your pelvic floor with Kegels: that you should be doing.
· Your eggs do not have a 35-year-old sell-by date: plenty of women get pregnant after 35 and there is no sudden drop in fertility on your birthday.
· Miscarriage risks from tests like the CVS and Amniocentesis are far lower than cited by most doctors.
· Pregnancy nausea may be unpleasant, but it’s a good sign: women who are sick are less likely to miscarry.
Emily Oster is an associate professor of economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She was a speaker at the 2007 TED conference and her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and Esquire. Oster is married to economist Jesse Shapiro and is the also the daughter of two economists. She has one child, Penelope.
New York Times:
"Expecting Better will be a revelation for curious mothers-to-be whose doctors fail to lay out the pros and cons of that morning latte, let alone discuss real science. And it makes for valuable homework before those harried ob-gyn appointments, even for lucky patients whose doctors are able to talk about the rationale behind their advice."
New York Magazine:
"Emily Oster combs through hundreds of medical studies to debunk many widely followed dictates: no alcohol, no caffeine, no changing the kitty litter. Her conclusions are startling… Expecting Better walks women through medical literature surrounding every stage of pregnancy, giving them data to make informed decisions about their own pregnancy. "
New York Post:
"It seems that everyone—doctors, yoga teachers, mothers-in-law and checkout ladies at grocery stores—are members of the pregnancy police. Everyone has an opinion. But not everyone is Emily Oster, a Harvard-trained economics professor at the University of Chicago … To help the many women who reached out to Oster for advice, she compiled her conclusions in her new book, Expecting Better, which she describes as a kind of pregnancy 'by the numbers.'"
"[Oster took] a deep dive into research covering everything from wine and weight gain to prenatal testing and epidurals. What she found was some of the mainstays of pregnancy advice are based on inconclusive or downright faulty science."
"Economist and author Emily Oster contradicts conventional wisdom and advocates a much more relaxed approach to pregnancy."
“She’s such a brilliant researcher and wordsmith.”
The Times (UK)
"[Expecting Better] offers expectant mothers a new route to the delivery room."
"A comprehensive and lively debunking of the myths surrounding pregnancy."
Harvey, Karp, MD, bestselling author of The Happiest Baby Guide to Sleep and The Happiest Baby on the Block:
"Expecting Better gives moms-to-be a big helping of peace of mind! Oster debunks many tired old myths and shines a light on issues that really matter."
Pamela Druckerman, New York Times bestselling author of Bringing Up Bébé and Bébé Day by Day: "It took someone as smart as Emily Oster to make it all this simple. She cuts through the thicket of anxiety and received wisdom, and gives us the facts. Expecting Better is both enlightening and calming. It almost makes me want to get pregnant."
Charles Wheelan, New York Times bestselling author of Naked Statistics:
"Expecting Better is a fascinating and reassuring tour of pregnancy and childbirth, with data leading the way at every juncture. From start to finish, Oster easily leads us through the key findings of the extant pregnancy-related research. My only regret is that my wife and I had three children without the benefit of this insightful approach."
Rachel Simmons, New York Times bestselling author of Curse of the Good Girl:
"The only antidote to pregnancy anxiety is facts, and Emily Oster has them in spades. Disarmingly personal and easy to read, this book is guaranteed to cut your freaking out in half. Pregnancy studies has a new heroine. Every pregnant woman will cheer this book—and want to take Oster out for a shot of espresso."
Steven D. Levitt, New York Times bestselling co-author of Freakonomics:
"This is a fascinating—and reassuring—look at the most important numbers of your pregnancy. It will make parents-to-be rethink much of the conventional wisdom: think bed rest is a good idea? Think again. This may be the most important book about pregnancy you read."