What to Accept When You're Expecting
Do we need to be scaring pregnant women so much?
If someone told you to alter your daily behavior, the first question you’d probably ask would be “Why?” And if you were told your actions were “risky,” you'd likely wonder “How risky?” Driving, cycling, staying home—everything we do carries some risk. The usual question is, how much risk is acceptable? Yet there are a few arenas where we tolerate zero risk, demanding lifestyle changes first and asking questions later. As anyone who's flown since 9/11 knows, national security is chief on that list. And so is pregnancy. Pregnant women give up foods, beverages, and behaviors because they're told, “You can never be too careful.” Emily Oster, bless her, says, “Oh, yes you can.”
Oster, a University of Chicago economist, was prompted by the frustrations of her own pregnancy to run the numbers on the standard prohibitions. In her new book, Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong—and What You Really Need to Know, Oster aims a welcome arsenal of data at a subject usually treated with hysteria. Although the book’s tone can get oddly glib and some of the myths she debunks were never really bunked in the first place (yes, you can have sex while pregnant), on the whole, Oster's book is surprising and useful. Oster makes a persuasive case that much of what pregnant women are told today is simply wrong, and that many of those “risky” behaviors aren’t so risky after all.