New Book Challenges Traditional Pregnancy Rules

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Quidsi. All opinions are entirely my own.

I’m sad to say that the first thing I did when my pregnancy test came back positive wasn’t jump for joy or squeal with delight. No, the first thing I did was whip out my smartphone and do a quick Google search for “alcohol during pregnancy.”

Four days prior, you see, I had attended a high-end charity event where I indulged in two—or was it three?—glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon. I blissfully enjoyed every sip, entirely ignorant of the embryo instead me.

So there I stood, positive pee stick in hand, waiting for the Internet to tell me my imbibing would result in a two-headed baby or worse.

When I told my doctor, she quickly assured me that I probably hadn’t done any irreparable damage, but that I should be more careful from here on out. After that, I followed every pregnancy guideline to a tee; no coffee, alcohol, sushi, or deli meat until I was holding a healthy baby in my arms, I said.

It felt a little over-dramatic, honestly. And a new book by Dr. Emily Oster, associate professor at the University of Chicago’s school of business, says it was just that.

In Expecting Better, Oster argues that many of the established recommendations for pregnant women—including limits on alcohol, caffeine, cold cuts, and sushi, and guidelines on weight gain and bed rest—are based on questionable or conflicting research. Doctors are restricting expecting women’s freedom, she contends, without the necessary science to back it up. 

The book, not surprisingly, is stirring up a lot of controversy, both in and out of the medical community. I’m no doctor, but here’s what I’m taking away from Oster’s research:

Use common sense.

While Oster argues that light drinking during pregnancy is fine, she’s not saying moms-to-be are free to get sloshed. We all know the dangers of heavy drinking during pregnancy, and this book isn’t refuting them.

Stop worrying so much.

Panicking over a turkey sandwich or stressing over an extra two pounds isn’t doing you or your baby any favors. Pregnant women could benefit from a little more calm and a lot less guilt – there will be plenty of that once the little one arrives.

Trust your doctor, but stay informed yourself.

Oster points out the significant delay between updated research and a corresponding change in doctors’ practice. Moms-to-be should see their doctors as partners rather than dictators, and keep abreast of the issues themselves so check-ups can be two-sided conversations.

Eschew blanket recommendations.

One of Expecting Better‘s main points is that pregnancy guidelines can’t be one-size-fits-all; there are too many factors and variables from one woman to another. What works for one expectant mom – or one lifestyle, or one personality – might not fit another.

If and when my next pregnancy rolls around, I plan to evaluate all of the evidence and consult with my doctor to determine if a more relaxed plan would work for me and be safe for my baby. That is, except for the litter box rule. Oster found no concrete evidence showing pregnant women who scoop a cat’s litter box are at greater risk for toxoplasmosis, which can cause birth defects. But shhhhhhhh, don’t tell my husband that!

When it comes to pregnancy guidelines, are you a rule-follower or breaker? Why?


23 responses to “New Book Challenges Traditional Pregnancy Rules”

  1. I wrote up a whole article on this book as well. At first, I really liked what she had to say. Then, I asked an OB about it, and she had some interesting thoughts. Like the fact that there aren’t a whole lot of real studies on it, because no pregnant mom wants to subject herself to being tested on effects of alcohol while pregnant. She also mentioned that Oster looks at everything from an economists point of view, not medical. While it’s an interesting concept and while I agree, some things may be a little over restrictive, at the end of the day, if you have a doctor who doesn’t listen to you, find a new one.

  2. I see where she’s coming from, but is it really worth any risk for a measly glass of wine? I adore a deep red in the evening more than most, but I wouldn’t give any at all to my baby. It does pass through the placenta to them and even if it’s a ‘safe’ amount it doesn’t make it ideal. I don’t really get women who won’t give it up for (by the time you get your positive) less than 9 months – it’s really not a big deal and we can just enjoy it even more once our little one arrives!

    • Josephine has it right. I’m not going to say anything about the other points, but there is tons of research to prove alcohol and pregnancy DO NOT mix. Why risk it at all!? I work with people in a daily basis who have FASD and they did not ask for that. If you are not informed on the topic, I wouldn’t be putting an opinion out there.

  3. I was a definite rule follower with the first one. I relaxed a little after that (but I still mostly follow them. Better safe than sorry)

  4. I think common sense is the best idea. Obviously no suspect food. I have had pasteurized brie though as the issue is non-pasteurized. And things like frozen smoked salmon. I don’t think I would take the risk of drinking or raw fish but that’s also not my normal lifestyle regularly so my body wouldn’t be used to it anyway. I do still consume caffeine with this pregnancy though – much more strict with my first but I’m exhausted looking after a 3 year old as well!

  5. In many countries pregnant women don’t forward this rules and are not overreacting. In America everybody is freaking out about the whole coffee and alcohol or raw fish ,red meat thing. Surprisenly in the USA we have more kids with allergies, birth defect ,autism,ADD,other problems than anywhere else in the world. Whoever want to follow the rules that’s fine but they also shouldn’t judge others.
    My doctor told me don’t drink coffee or soda,but she wanted to prescribe me pills for morning sickness or back pain which i believe can harm the baby much more.

  6. As an adoptive mom of a teen who struggles daily because of her birth mother’s choice to drink during pregnancy, I find it grossly irresponsible that anyone would condone ANY amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Of course you can’t beat yourself up for having a drink or two before you even know you’re pregnant. But if we’re trying to educate and inform, I strongly believe we should err on the side of caution on this issue. My daughter’s neurologist said that NO amount of alcohol can be considered safe during pregnancy. Period. The risks of serious neurological, behavioral and developmental problems that can result from alcohol exposure in utero are far too great–and too long lasting–to be casual about mixing alcohol with pregnancy.

  7. Common sense, really IS what it’s all about!

    I knew before I walked in, exactly HOW much caffeine is considered safe (which is, luckily, more than my normal daily amount of soda!), which he finally conceded to knowing too, but I was asked to not “spread the word”! LOL
    I, also, pointed out that saying “no sushi” really isn’t fair. There are a lot of fully cooked sushis out there! So, as long as I made sure I ordered sushi that was fully cooked (EVERYTHING in it, not just the fish/meat!), he was fine with that too (and, he admitted, newly informed on the plethora of different sushi available nowadays!).
    I don’t really drink anyway, so NOT having the 2-3 glasses of wine I would normally have in a YEAR, was no big deal. LOL
    Hot dogs…that was a tougher one. We buy a local brand that is made and packaged here, and made with better quality meats (so, yes, more expensive…but SO worth it!). So, not AS sketchy as some…but, I still tried to limit my intake to a couple dogs a month. I also cooked them thoroughly…even though our’s are TECHNICALLY “fully cooked”, and nearly everyone I know eats them straight from the package…like bologna sticks (same company makes awesome Bologna!). I did not have a single “cold puppy”, my entire pregnancy!
    Listen to your doctor, but never blindly follow anyone…use your brain and your available resources, and, above all, trust your gut!!! If something seems hinky…it probably is!

  8. I think that it is important to make informed decisions. A lot of what I see out there when it comes to what you shouldn’t eat is fear mongering. Like sushi for example.

  9. Please please please don’t take advice from this blog or book. This woman is a business woman, not a medical or even a science one. There are MANY studies that show and many babies that have been born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and this can occur from ANY amount of alcohol ingested.

    • Did you know that 1 in 150,000 babies born have fetal alcohol effects? Did you also know that not one of those babies were born to mothers who were light to moderate drinkers during their pregnancy? Stop spreading fear.
      For the record, Im a healthcare professional, and have spoken with many colleagues who all agree that the main reason “no alcohol” is pushed in this country is because “in moderation” is a term not many people understand.

  10. So many things wrong with this article…

    1. You’re taking advice on your PREGNANCY from a woman who majored in Business. Pretty sure a MD and MBA she has are in no way even the same classes. Trust your OB for advice on all of these things while you are pregnant.

    2. The reason studies are “inconclusive” about the affects of alcohol during pregnancy is because the alcohol effects all different embryos in all different ways at all different points in a pregnancy. You were DAMN LUCKY you had a healthy baby after drinking early on. The idea that you should drink is TERRIBLE advice. I am a Special Eductaion teacher and have seen Fetal Alcohol Syndrome at its worst.

    • There are many strong opinions here but reality acurately is, surprisingly enough, every woman is different, as well as every doctor is. However, we must not be so ignorant to not understand the effects of stress in pregnancy.

      Do any of the mothers on here consiser situations with addiction and unexpected pregnancy? I’d like you all to take a look at what stress can do to a pregnancy as well, and most times, enough of it will result in a miscarriage.

      I related this article to smoking for me. I was pregnant and needed a few weeks to taper off before I quit. I was advised of the risks, but being a woman of extreme anxiety as well, my doctor has assured me not to be hard on myself to the point of panic or extreme stress over quitting. Cold turkey wasn’t a good option for me. I cut down significantly and went from over a pack a day (20 cigarettes) to under two a day, some days an emergency 3rd was necessary. I am a single mom as well and working full-time, taking on my very first pregnancy at 21 years old. I did not feel right smoking but I cannot deny the stress reliever it was, trying to stay clear headed during this life changing time.

      There’s a lot of shaming but not enough evidence that proves just a small amount of liquor has ever caused a severe case of fetal alcohol syndrome and same with cigarettes.

      Now, not to say, large amounts or full-term drinking or smoking is ever recommended, I just feel we should stop being so hard headed on our fellow soon-to-be moms when we don’t know each others circumstances, lives, and situations.

  11. I find it funny that women freak out over having the odd sip of red wine or canapé with smoked salmon, yet don’t bat an eyelid about eating canned crap and processed, fried foods filled with GMO ingredients, preservatives and artificial flavours/stabilisers/colours et al. Why aren’t doctors including these products and McDonalds/KFC on their lists of unadvisable foods for pregnant women? Give me sashimi over a packet of M&Ms any day.

    • thank you! you get it. its all choice but yes no one cares about the preservatives in there little Debbie snacks, or the gross stuff in there mcdonalds they crave. but wine heaven for bid. wine is better for your intestinal track and gut, than any of that other poison that sticks to your insides.

  12. The small and sporadic glass of wine here or there is not unlike what is consumed daily by the European pregnant woman. I am not saying chug alcohol or even have enough in one setting to get or feel tipsy, but a small glass is responsible and up to every individual. There is a ton of shaming, and not enough common sense when it comes to matters of pregnancy. I will not freak out about having a little meat and cheese plate, a little caffeine if needed, or a small glass of wine with my medium rare steak at a nice restaurant.

  13. all of you are missing the concept, book or not, doctor or not, its all the woman’s choice! let them make the decision whether you agree or not you’re not the one doing any of it…let your pregnancy go the way you choose, and allow the other moms to have their pregnancy go the way they supportive either way, I know people who have smoked, who have had an occasional glass of wine, or ate a sandwich for Christ sake. its not your life they are effecting. choice is choice. opinion is an opinion worry about yourself if you cant empower one another or a strangers choice, maybe you shouldn’t be on a blog. I am expecting my first and yes I wont eat a sandwhich but at 8 months if I want 4 oz of red wine I damn well will probably have one. And that is MY choice. i’m not an alcoholic, nor am I having the whole bottle. But please keep your opinions going sense I will not continue to visit this site. but take some perspective and just simply realize someone else’s choices don’t effect you, or your baby! i’d still drink coffee everyday if it didn’t make me nauseous! So shame on me! But i’m sure you’ll all be thankful my baby has only had the caffeine from green tea about once a week!

  14. Don’t worry people- I’m on my 7th baby and I am more than comfortable taking on your raw sushi, deli meat (rolls eyes), moderate amounts of caffeine, and occasional glass of wine. Americans are freaking ridiculous with the damn fear mongering.

  15. I’d rather follow guidlines just in case but won’t panic if I later find out something I ate might be bad for the baby. Eating clean and no medicin (if you have to I’m sure it is ok but if not then I won’t for smaller issues like headached etc). Unsure about supplements but if ok for pregnancy within recommended amounts, hard to know food has the amounts it should have. It’s easy really to avoid sushi etc. Can have that later Lots of yummy alternatives.

  16. My OB told me to keep it simple. If I want a coffee, I have coffee. I just keep it to a small one. If I want a sandwich, I eat a sandwich. I rarely drank before. So I don’t see any need to have a glass now. She didn’t restrict me from anything. And even if she would have, this is advice not the law! I research everything and make an informed decision based on what is best for me. I’m not going to put added stress and anxiety on my body by freaking out about every little thing. Before all this medical advances, people survived otherwise our population wouldn’t be flourishing.

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