What To Expect From 'Expecting Better'

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(Rich Moffitt/Flickr Creative Commons)
(Rich Moffitt/Flickr Creative Commons)

In March 2011, CommonHealth published a post celebrating — or rather, marking — "What to Expect When You're Expecting's" 500th week on The New York Times bestseller list. It was headlined "What To Hate About What To Expect When You're Expecting," and garnered dozens of suggestions from unhappy readers of the "crazymaking pregnancy bible."

Two years later, "What To Expect" still sits solidly on the bestseller list, but the buzz is building around a new alternative that was released Tuesday.

The book comes from Emily Oster, a health economist by trade. Titled "Expecting Better," it focuses on teaching women to examine the commonly held "rules" of pregnancy and evaluate for themselves just how big each risk actually is.

Some of Oster's key findings include taking cold lunch meat off the verboten list (fears of listeria are overblown, she found) and enjoying coffee without guilt (standard advice against caffeine consumption comes with all sorts of complicating factors).

She writes in The Wall Street Journal:

Pregnant women are clamoring for better information about everything from exercise to hair dye to bed rest and delivery. They don't want categorical limits based on fuzzy science and half-baked research. They want to assess risks for themselves and make their own best decisions.

That's what Oster herself did. One of the biggest controversies she has raised, though, is her treatment of alcohol.

After examining the existing research, Oster concluded there is little risk in drinking an occasional glass of wine. According to The New York Times, she also suggests that drinking slowly may also minimize the alcohol that reaches the fetus. However, groups across the nation vehemently objected, disputing her arguments and pointing to the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome.

What's the bottom line?

If you're in the market for a pregnancy guide, you can have either the authoritative "What to Expect" or the more skeptical "Expecting Better." Consider these Amazon reviews from two women for whom the respective books worked well:

Annie Y. on "Expecting Better":

I am 12 weeks pregnant and could not understand the lack of data supporting all of the rules that pregnant women must adhere to. I saw 2 OB-GYN's and both doctors provided differing views, without providing sound data... was it just their opinion they were spouting off to me? That's what it seemed like to me. Women must make their own decisions, at the end of the day, and I am shocked with the negative reviews this book is receiving. This book is a MUST READ FOR ALL WOMEN!!

And M. Brisson on "What to Expect":

I usually do not write reviews but I felt I had to do it for this book : when I read the bad reviews about it, I wonder if we really had the same book in hand ? For me it was a mine of information and above all, a mine of reassuring tips and advices. I'm the type of person who worries about all and everything. I got this book for my first pregnancy and it helped me getting started and understanding the pregnancy step by step.

Ultimately, the publication of Oster's book offers an additional option as parents-to-be choose a guide that works for them, based on their comfort level and personal preferences.

Exactly as it should be.

This program aired on August 26, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.



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