As a bookworm I’ll be reading dozens of books during my pregnancy, many about pregnancy and raising children and some that are not. Every Tuesday I will be reviewing a book, starting with “Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong–and What You Really Need to Know” by Emily Oster, the first pregnancy related book I choose to read.
I chose this book based on its title and intriguing title and premise and some details from Amazon reviews. I knew before I read a word of it that the book was quite controversial in that it offered contrarian advice including that alcohol in moderate amounts could be OK during pregnancy, an opinion I wildly disagree with (both before and after reading the book) along with other such opinions. Still, I wanted to give the book a chance to provide information, stimulate my thinking and perhaps be entertaining as well.
Emily’s impetus to writing the book stemmed from her work as an economist, which influenced her need to have data based information for her two pregnancies. She had one child at 30 and her second at 35, allowing her to have the experience of having a child when her age was considered within the desirable age to do so (as outlined by both the medical community and many lay people) and advanced maternal age. Thus she was able to use her own experiences, and that of friends of hers who were pregnant around the same times, to explain how she and they made choices based on data given to them by their doctor’s and Emily’s research.
At times, she and her friends made similar decisions and at times they disagreed. I found these parts of the books especially interesting and relevant to me as a reader and mom to be. I wish there had been more information included about her and her friends and especially about their babies’ developments after their births. It would have even be great to have had a chapter or two in there written by the friends, especially as her premise is that moms to be should make their own best decisions based on data they can find and their own set of circumstances.
The one chapter I was most eager to read, and had been part of my reasoning for ordering the book was a comment from an Amazon reviewer that the chapter on realistic miscarriage risk was very informative and reassuring. I had hoped this would be one of the longer chapters in the book, however, it was one of the shorter ones.
Emily highlighted information that I knew and was somewhat reassuring including that miscarriage was up to 90% due to chromosomal abnormalities and not the result of anything the mom to be had or had not done. The data she presents notes that miscarriage risk is down to 6 percent for women who have seen their baby’s heartbeats at week. This is lower than I’ve seen from many sources, but reassuring as we saw a heartbeat at both weeks 6 and 8. She mentions a study that says overall miscarriage risk was 19 percent for mother’s over 35, however, she does not cite any information breaking that down into into various age groups ie. 35-38, 39-40, 41-43, etc., information that as a mom over 40 I’d be very interested in having seen.
As mentioned the author does use studies to show that certain activities considered by many experts and pregnant women to be unallowable including consuming alcohol in even moderate amounts, consuming caffeine through drinking coffee in large amounts, eating sushi, eating deli meats, etc. might be risks that some women were willing to take without any consequences.
The author does back up all her premises that each of these activities can be undertaken and lead to the delivery of a healthy baby. She raises the valid point that almost anything even something considered healthy such as vitamins can be bad in overly large quantities. I tried my best to put aside my skepticism to be an objective reader to consider her points such as that reputable and well kept sushi places may produce sushi that is relatively free of Listeria and other contaminants that made cause food poisoning, a major concern while pregnant.
Still, despite all her data, I’m sticking to my guns on choices I’ve made. I’ve been completing avoiding coffee ever since I discovered I was pregnant, and luckily for me I was only an occasional coffee drinker, and having chocolate only on rare days and in very small amounts to avoid the smaller amount of caffeine in it as well. I’ve not only been avoiding drinking any alcohol, I’ve avoided eating foods with alcohol in them including products in which it is expected that the alcohol or the majority of it would be cooked out. For the most part that’s just meant careful food ordering, though it did require Matt to make me a different stew than our other guests for my birthday party, I had an alcohol free Irish stew, while everyone else was served Guiness stew. Ironically, the guests were at first given the Irish stew, and when many of them tried both, they agreed both were wonderful.
The parts of her book that I found the most useful to me were those on prenatal testing and epidurals. I will be having genetic testing on my fetus, including Non Invasive Prenatal Testing tomorrow and like the author if these come back normal as I hope and pray they will, I’ll skip amniocentesis, just as she and her friends did. While it is unlikely that I will be able to deliver my baby and will instead have a Cesarean section (unless my baby comes before 39 weeks and is small enough to be delivered without one, and with my husband having been a big baby and me a petite girl this is not expected), should I deliver, I also will forgo the epidural for the same reasons the author did.
Although there was plenty of things in the book I disagreed with, the information was useful and very informative. The information about what she and her friends decided with data in hand was great, and I would have liked to have had more of it. If the author had a follow up book based on decisions during the baby’s first few years using data, I would eagerly read that as well.
Rating – four baby booties out of five