Friday, 1 December 2017
#CBR9 Book 107: "Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong and What You Really Need to Know" by Emily Oster
Rating: 4 stars
Since not all the readers of my blog are necessarily also readers over on the Cannonball group blog or my friends on Facebook, you may not know that I am currently in the process of growing a tiny human inside me. This comes after more than seven years of trying to get pregnant and nearly two emotionally taxing and occasionally very depressing years where every few months I went through time consuming, expensive and at times really rather painful IVF treatments. So I worked HARD for this tiny human, who will make his (yes, it's a boy) arrival in February, if the doctors are correct, or sometime in mid-January if my Mum's intuition is the one we're going by.
In the many years I've been trying to get pregnant, I probably read pretty much all there is on fertility tips and old wives' tales on what to do (or to avoid) to help increase fertility. So many years of watching my weight or trying to eat specific diets or exercising more, or possibly reducing exercise (as some experts claim that exercising too much can also be bad), reducing stress and the always helpful "just try not to think so much about it". There's a lot of opinions out there, and huge amounts of well-meaning advice, but what should one listen to and what is better to ignore? When one of my best friends, Ida, got pregnant with her first child a few years ago, she bought this book. She found it incredibly helpful and when it was confirmed that after four previous IVF attempts that only ended in heartbreak and failure, this fifth one had been successful, she lent it to me.
Emily Oster, the author, is an economist and uses her powers of research and knowledge of statistics to go through all manner of "it is known" pregnancy advice to check what actually makes sense to follow and what you may be better off just ignoring. Quite a lot of medical advice is based on very outdated ideas, and if you consider all the well-meaning opinions of friends, family or opinionated parts of the internet? Well, a lot of that is just plain scare-mongering. Through her research, Oster tries to find out exactly what lies behind all the various advice, usually presenting several sides to an issue, specifically so the reader can make up their own mind with regards to what they want to do in THEIR pregnancy.
It took me several months to read through the book, not because it's boring (because it really isn't - although if you're not expecting or planning for a baby, it's probably not your typical beach read), but because the book is divided into several useful sections, starting with planning and conception and moving through each of the three trimesters, before dealing with labour and questions around delivery. I wanted to read each one approximately around the time they actually matched up with my own pregnancy. By the time I reached the third trimester, it seemed ok to blaze through the birth parts too, as it's nice to finally finish a book as well.
Emily Oster is American, and some of the advice she gives doesn't entirely apply to women in Europe. Living in Norway, I am lucky enough that salmonella is so rare that raw eggs are never a danger, whether you are pregnant or not. Same applies for deli meats and smoked salmon, they are certainly perfectly safe to eat if you buy them vacuum packed from a trusted source, store them appropriately and eat them before too much time has passed. Sadly, cured meats like serrano ham are off limits no matter where you live and that may be my greatest craving.
There's a lot of really good and very well researched advice in this book. Having browsed some of the other reviews on Goodreads, I see that Oster was criticised when the book was published for suggesting that in the second and third trimester, one glass of alcohol occasionally may not be harmful to your child. Considering that in European countries like France, this is almost encouraged by doctors during parts of pregnancy, I don't see what the fuss is about. Oster is not saying you SHOULD drink alcohol, she's presenting you with the possible risk factors if you do. For some women, a glass of wine every so often could mean that they reduce stress, which could be much more harmful to the baby than low levels of alcohol. In my case, I was much more interested in what levels of caffeine I could get away with. I haven't drunk alcohol for nearly ten years, but I need my caffeine to survive.
Judging a book by its cover: It's not exactly an exiting cover, and with a title that long, that's really all that fits. I'm not sure if the purple shapes at the top of the cover is supposed to evoke the image of a pregnant woman (if I wore a purple top and looked down my chest and my bump right about now, that's approximately what it would look like) or if it's just random shapes. It's a non-fiction book. I doubt it needs to look all that snazzy.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.