New Book Challenges Traditional Pregnancy Rules

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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?