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Saturday, October 12, 2013

What Not To Expect When You're Expecting

If you’ve ever been pregnant, or been close to someone who has, you're undoubtedly aware of what pregnant women can't do. They're not supposed to drink alcohol, change the cat litter, or have too much coffee. As it turns out, there isn't a whole lot of empirical support for most of these prohibitions. When Emily Oster, an economist at the University of Chicago's business school, became pregnant, she consulted a number of the self-help books and found that much of the advice was contradictory. So, being the empirical social scientist that she is, she examined the research on everything from drinking wine to weight gain. What she found was some of the conventional wisdom is based on inconclusive or questionable science:
Weight gain during pregnancy is less important than a woman's starting weight and not gaining enough may be more harmful. Light drinking is fine (up to two glasses of wine a week in the first trimester and up to a glass a day in the second and third trimesters). And much of the evidence supports having three to four cups of coffee daily, which made Oster very, very happy ("Coffee, wine and sushi! New pregnancy book says OK").
All of this is the subject of Oster's recent book, Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong-and What You Really Need to Know, which has almost certainly upset the "what to expect when you're expecting" industry.

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