Trying to be Perfect while Pregnant

 Hi arhrndnrth
Folks! This post comes to us from Emily Oster, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, and the author of Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong – and What you really Need to Know. She tweets @ProfEmilyOster and she’s a non-alarmist. Woo-hoo! – L.


When you’re pregnant, it can sometimes seem like you should be afraid of everything.  Even some things you may not have thought of.  Last week I saw an article about how you shouldn’t swim (causes asthma in your kid later, I guess).  A few months ago one of my Chinese friends was horrified to learn I hadn’t worn a radiation vest while working at my computer during pregnancy.

I’m an economist – my job is data – and when I was pregnant I spent a lot of time combing through studies and data in the hopes of identifying which risks were real, and which were exaggerated.  The result was my book, Expecting Better, and in it I suggest that a lot of pregnancy risks are exaggerated.  A little bit of coffee?  Fine.  A little bit of deli ham?  Probably also okay.  Sushi?  Yes.

Some of the rules are there for good reason (tobacco is a definite no-no, as are hot tubs) but I make the case that pregnant women should be able to live with a lot less fear.

Since the book has come out I’ve heard from a lot of women who love this message.  But I’ve also heard from some who feel that it’s all well and good to know what the risks are, but they’re still going to avoid everything.  Their reasoning, often, is that if something did go wrong – even if for a reason having nothing to do with their behavior – they would blame themselves unless they did everything perfectly.

A post on the Motherlode blog made this point plainly: the author lost a baby to listeria, and even though she doesn’t know what the source of the infection was, she still blames herself for a few deli sandwiches during the pregnancy.

The possibility that you might feel this way is certainly something women should think about in making these choice, but it is also something I think we should fight against.  Women – mothers – increasingly seem to feel like it is our fault if anything goes wrong with a pregnancy, or with our children.  Forget about going wrong, we blame ourselves if our kid isn’t perfect in every way.

Shortly after my book came out, someone emailed me, distraught, having had a miscarriage.  She wanted to know if she might have caused this by pumping her own gas, or by having a single glass of wine before she knew she was pregnant.  Of course the answer was no, but I felt sad that she even needed to ask.  I am all for the idea of taking appropriate cautions, and of doing what is best for our kids.  But I also think we need to ease up on the guilt.  By doing so, we may dial back the fear, as well. – E.O.

Lenore here: I so agree that we have gone overboard blaming ourselves (or worrying we will be blamed) if anything goes wrong with our kids at any stage of their lives, beginning in the womb. In my lectures I talk about how, for instance, the “What to Expect” book tells readers to consider EACH BITE a chance to give their baby better odds and possibly even a better life. Nine months is a lot of bites to think hard about, and the flip side of trying to be “good” is that any step off that tightrope of perfection feels like YOU are to blame if your child isn’t perfect.

This whole outlook feels less like a new age kind of healthy mama perspective and more like Henry the VIII who blamed Anne Boleyn for having a child with birth defects. I’d really like to move forward, not backward, when it comes to thinking pregnant women can control all outcomes if only they are more strict, vigilant and self-sacrificing. Or, in Anne Boleyn’s case, if they’d only stop consorting with the devil. – L. 


I hope i didn't eat a single bite incorrectly!
I hope she didn’t eat a single less-than-optimal bite!

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106 Responses to Trying to be Perfect while Pregnant

  1. Jenny Islander September 27, 2013 at 12:49 am #

    My midwife calls the What to Expect series “How to Expect Complications.” She says that if your doctor (she believes in shadow care) is recommending couch rest or otherwise keeping your blood pressure down, you need to not read those books. Try Ina May Gaskin instead.

  2. Asya September 27, 2013 at 1:31 am #

    Thank you Lenore. I think it is always better for mother to have a happy pregnancy than sit in a corner avoiding the fleas if she dares go outside, that can infect her and the baby with the bubonic plague! But hot tubs? Then how does Japan with onsen and almost daily hot baths end up with the world’s 11th lowest rate of MMR? (The US ranks 39th.) It also has… sushi! The mothers are the same age as others in developed countries. Several Japanese studies concluded that women could use hot springs freely without any fear birth defects. Gosh golly.

    It is funny, here in America women vehemently avoid cheese and wine and to have a glass is unspeakable terror. My horrible mother calming her nerves after work with a glass or wine, or a bottle of beer. 🙁 I am the retarded result, speaking only a few languages. Yet American mothers choose to drug themselves and their children before giving birth by major surgery (but hey at least the pregnancy was SAFE). Then gee, this country has the second-worst maternal mortality rate in the developed world. I wonder why…

  3. Stephanie September 27, 2013 at 1:31 am #

    I am regularly glad that I never read the What to Expect books when I was pregnant. There are so many better pregnancy books and resources out there.

  4. Michelle H September 27, 2013 at 2:59 am #

    It’s nice to see a voice of reason. When I was pregnant, I read one chapter of the “What to Expect” book, and tossed it once I realized it was the “everything will go wrong” book. Heck, when I finally discovered I was pregnant at about 8-9 weeks, I backtracked in my mind. 2 weeks prior to that ( so when I was 6 weeks pregnant), I had been on a dive trip in the Bahamas. Partway through that trip, I got a cold. So I had gone scuba diving, drank several of the the infamous “Rico’s 8 Rum Punch” drinks, taken a bunch of cold medication, and more drinks once I realized I couldn’t dive the rest of the week. I kicked myself for all that, realized there was no way for me to suspect I had been pregnant, and went on with my life.

  5. Lynnie September 27, 2013 at 4:22 am #

    It didn’t even occur to me that I was pregnant until I was 10-11 weeks pregnant with my son. (I struggled with infertility, but that’s besides the point.) I had a pretty active job that involved chemicals and sick people (I was a housekeeper at a hospital.) Before I told everybody I was expecting I was using floor scrubbing machines, going up and down step ladders, picking up sort of heavy items (not really), but once my boss knew I was pregnant everything changed. I was banned from doing anything remotely “dangerous” like standing on a 6 inch step stool so I could do my job. I was basically treated like I was going to fall apart at any moment. I also got chewed out by “concerned” friends for carrying small bags of groceries from the store because it might “send me into labor” (which was the point, I was due and my midwife told me walking might help speed things up and since the store was close……)
    Pregnant women aren’t little china dolls that will break if they do anything remotely “strenuous” or “dangerous”. I was glad that I was too busy working and trying to save up some money to read any of those fear mongering baby and pregnancy books.

  6. Eileen September 27, 2013 at 7:56 am #

    I saw this author/economist on Morning Joe a few months ago. Dr. Nancy Snyderman was on the panel as well. I’m not sure why anyone would take advice on a medical issue from a economist, but my takeaway was that the best advice comes from your Dr. There were some things that Snyderman disagreed with that Oster was suggesting.

    I read the “What to Expect…” books when I was expecting 20 years ago. I also listened to my Dr. I wasn’t full of fear.

  7. sue September 27, 2013 at 7:57 am #

    if women behaved the was experts think they should and act that way and eat that way, the human race would have died out long ago. you simply can not remove have the population and work force [and in reality it doesn’t happen even today] and survive as a species. if you had gone back to ancient , mideviel or even pioneer times , the work and diet they had would have caused today’s experts to die of shock!

  8. Donna September 27, 2013 at 8:06 am #

    My favorite was everyone insisting that I just had to get rid of my cats when I got pregnant. A little research told me that the indoor cats that I’d had for several years at that point in a house that wasn’t infested with rodents for them to kill, were highly unlikely to be suddenly struck with toxoplasmosis and transmit it to me during the few months that I was pregnant.

  9. Stacy September 27, 2013 at 8:07 am #

    When I was having assorted aches and pains associated with pregnancy, my midwife told me that it was fine to take a hot bath; the only rule was to immediately cool myself down if I started feeling uncomfortably warm. I did notice that even the midwife’s list of “bad foods” seemed to grow with each pregnancy, but I didn’t follow it strictly. I tried to eat healthy foods, but I also ate pretty much whatever I was craving at the moment, and my kids turned out fine. I know people who didn’t eat any “junk food” while pregnancy, which sounds like torture. Someone told me it was bad to eat peanut butter while pregnant — I lived on it during my first trimester with my son, who ended up with various hereditary environmental allergies but no peanut allergy.

  10. Elizabeth September 27, 2013 at 8:25 am #

    I really think that What to Expect When You’re Expecting is one of the absolute worst things that has happened to American mothers. I tell mothers I know to avoid it like the plague.

  11. Donna September 27, 2013 at 8:28 am #

    Eileen – She isn’t offering medical advice. What she is offering is a statistical analysis of the true likelihood of all these horrible things happening during pregnancy. Of course a doctor will disagree with her. They want you to be 100% perfect because you will sue them if they say you can eat lunch meat and there just happens to be a freak outbreak of listeria in lunch meat available in your area during your pregnancy despite the fact that such an incidence is extraordinarily rare and as randomly unlucky as say, getting kidnapped by a stranger while walking to school.

    Under your theory, we shouldn’t listen to a word Lenore says either because Lenore is a journalist and not an expert on child development or criminology. Her advice is based on the exact same statistical analysis relied on by this economist and cannot possibly be trusted over a PhD in child development and criminology (do you have to have both to be a reliable source of information on letting your children out of your sight?)

  12. lollipoplover September 27, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    I ate whatever I could keep down with all of my pregnancies as I was horribly sick with morning sickness until well into the second trimester. I’m not proud that I ate Lucky Charms almost daily with the first pregnancy but it was the only thing even remotely appealing that didn’t make me hurl. I did not give birth to a Leprechaun (though he does love Lucky Charms).

    I hate the obsession with pregnancy and eating as if every morsel of food is a particle in an atomic bomb. Nutrition is something to consider for life- eat like your body is an instrument, not an ornament, and try to make good choices most of the time that fuel your body. Obsessing over each bite, pregnant or not, is an eating disorder.

  13. Beth Holmes September 27, 2013 at 8:33 am #

    Seems to me that the fear and worry caused by seeing danger everywhere are more harmful to the unborn baby than a lot of the things expecting Moms are afraid of. As for the “What to Expect” series they mentioned lots of risks, but glossed over the one that happened to me — I don’t recall them mentioning stillbirth at all back in 2002 and yet it does still happen — it happened to me at 38 weeks pregnant. Luckily I don’t blame myself at all — there was a knot in the cord — nothing I could have done a single thing about! At least that’s what my doctors said and I choose to believe them.

  14. TaraK September 27, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    Yup! I had a miscarriage (twins) 11 years ago. You automatically go to what you could have possibly done wrong. For me, the “reason” (nowhere by in my own mind of course) was that I’d sanded down windowsills in a house built in 1900. Surely it was the inhalation of lead paint dust. (No, I don’t believe that, but it is where you go.)

    On the flip side, my sister was prescribed a super strong dangerous drug. She took a few doses and then realized she was late, like late late. Yup, she was pregnant. Yup, she lost the baby. Yup, she beat herself up over it. And she’s healing beautifully and not living in that dark place. She realized that it was a human mistake to have not checked to see if she was pregnant (on her part AND ON HER DOCTOR’S PART). Mistakes happen.

  15. Eileen September 27, 2013 at 9:01 am #

    @Donna – she wrote an entire book about what pregnant woman can (statistically) do while pregnant. She might be presenting it from a statistical standpoint, but that should never replace what your own Dr tells you (presuming you have a good relationship with Dr you trust/respect and can actually have face to face discussion with).

    Here’s the link the MSNBC discussion:

  16. Jen (P.) September 27, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    **Obsessing over each bite, pregnant or not, is an eating disorder.**

    Did you know it actually is? “Those who have an ‘unhealthy obsession’ with otherwise healthy eating may be suffering from ‘orthorexia nervosa,’ a term which literally means ‘fixation on righteous eating.’ Orthorexia starts out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthfully, but orthorexics become fixated on food quality and purity. . . . ”

    So there’s that to worry about too 😀

  17. Eileen September 27, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    I suppose this column, written by a Dr., covers my thoughts on the book pretty well.

  18. pentamom September 27, 2013 at 9:21 am #

    Someone needs to rewrite the “What to Expect” books with all the practical advice and none of the fear-mongering. I found them extremely useful when I was pregnant, but somehow I just managed to tune out the obsessive stuff. I realize, though, that not everyone can do that (and to this day I don’t know how I did it — it might have just been the big dose of “those fancy people with their fancy books didn’t live through the depression — we did and we didn’t worry about all that stuff and we survived” practicality I got from my mom) so I’m not dismissing the fear-mongering. I’m just saying there was a ton of useful information in those books so it would be great if they could be rewritten without the angst.

  19. pentamom September 27, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    Or is it possible that earlier editions that came out in the late 80’s were less obsessive? That would sort of fit with the cultural mood.

  20. pentamom September 27, 2013 at 9:26 am #

    I see the first edition came out in ’84 — that must be the one I had, because my first was born in 1990 and the second edition didn’t come out until ’91.

  21. Jen (P.) September 27, 2013 at 9:35 am #

    In trying to determine which edition I read while pregnant in 1998 I learned that there is now a What to Expect BEFORE You’re Expecting (2009). Yowza.

    Personally I preferred the Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy.

  22. Donna September 27, 2013 at 9:50 am #

    Eileen – I don’t think her purpose is to replace doctors. But I disagree 100% that people should not do their own research, including possibly reading this book, about what their doctor tells them. Doctors are not super-human, never wrong entities, and most important, doctors are not you. Only you can truly evaluate what is best for you and the best way to do that is to gather information from different sources, weighing how it applies to your life and make your own decisions. Relying blindly on doctor’s recommendations is completely foolhardy.

  23. Havva September 27, 2013 at 10:02 am #

    My sister was an obsessive reader of “What to Expect” when she had her first child. She even knows one of the authors. When I announced my pregnancy her first words of advise were that I should NOT read “What to Expect.”

    I appreciate the analysis from a Dr. that Eileen pointed out. I agree that doctors will give you a straight answer if you ask, and if they think you won’t freak out on them.

    Which brings me to the thing about hot tubs supposedly being a no-no. My local pool has big signs saying (among other things) that pregnant women need permission from their doctors. I asked my doctor and she said that the restriction is based on studies showing that elevated body temperature (from illness) increase the risk of miscarriage during the first trimester. So by the time a mom is showing the risk has passed. The only remaining risk is that hot water brings blood to the surface of your skin and can make a mother faint. She advised me to get right out if I felt light headed, adding this is instinctive for most people. And she said not stay in more than 15 minutes (same as the pool’s time limit). But then despite saying that she saw no medical risk to it, she recommended I avoid the hot tub “because people are going to be really upset if you try it.”

  24. CrazyCatLady September 27, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    No swimming? Really? I can’t think of a better way to get in shape for the birth (birth IS easier if you are in shape) than swimming. And floating in the water, floating along with my huge stomach…it was heaven on my back.

    I ate blue cheese almost daily with my first. Feta with the second and third. I ate what I could eat because my doctor was worried that I was dehydrated and not eating enough. Morning sickness sucks, and I needed something, like as someone else said, that wouldn’t make me hurl.

    Seems like the cures in these cases are worse for you than what you actually do. Getting my body ready to handle 12 hours of exercise, and eating so that I don’t faint…(which I did do a couple of times from not eating,) well, those are good things.

    I bet if I went walking that some people would have put me down for being near car exhaust. I did have people chew me out for not getting organic when I was getting fresh veggies – I was doing the best I could on my budget. Those people who chewed me out have never been poor – they had no idea. We all do the best we can with what we have and shouldn’t berate ourselves for what we can’t do.

  25. SKL September 27, 2013 at 10:14 am #

    Yeah, I see that so often in discussions about what’s safe, when you try to bring rationality in. Several moms will say “but it *could* happen and if it did, I would never forgive myself.” The implication being that I must be less of a mom if I think I could forgive myself should the nearly impossible happen to my kid.

    Then when you say “you’d better sell your car then, and your bathtubs” you get “come on, be realistic.” LOL.

    Obviously when something bad happens, we do a lot of second-guessing. I suppose it’s part of that stage of grieving where you want to deny or negotiate or be angry . . . it’s natural, but it doesn’t mean that it’s a rational way to think about everything every day.

    Today there is a discussion about Gardasil on a facebook group. It seems people have somehow become convinced that everyone who has ever had HPV is probably going to get cervical cancer. Meanwhile it doesn’t seem to bother anyone that the manufacturer’s own research report states that giving the vax to people who already have HPV increases the risk of cancer quite a bit. And that despite this, FDA and doctors still recommend giving the vax to people who have HPV. Because it might prevent the *other* strains which are actually less likely to cause cancer than the vax itself at that point. They are playing on the idea that “this vax is giving you control over the monster, and who doesn’t want control over our kids’ health?” When in fact the real big bad monsters are still very much out there.

  26. Eileen September 27, 2013 at 10:44 am #

    @Donna, right because my suggestion is that we “blindly” go along with what a Dr said.

    I specifically said that you should have a Dr you respect/trust and have face to face discussions with.

    You shouldn’t “blindly” trust anything. Not a book, not 1 person, not an economist with no medical background that wrote and is selling a book.

    Pardon me for presuming we’re talking about a pregnant woman who isn’t a sheep. If we are, then her best course of action is probably following a Drs advice anway, lol.

    If you don’t have a good rapport/respect with your Dr, then that’s probably the first place you should start to reevaluate. If you’ve got a Dr you can trust and can sit down to talk with, that’s more valuable than the stack of books (no matter what they are) on your coffee table.

  27. Stephanie September 27, 2013 at 11:13 am #

    Statistics. When I hear my pregnant friends talk about how they won’t eat smoked salmon or drink a drop of wine, I shake my head. I say, do you still drive in a car? Because you are much more likely to harm you or your fetus from getting in a car accident than getting sick from smoke salmon.

    I asked my doctor if I could have sushi for my birthday. I really wanted it. She said, sure, just stay away from the fish with high mercury rates. The second time I was pregnant my new doctor told me it was no problem to ride almost any ride at Disneyland (I was 16 weeks) – she said she had done just the same thing a couple weeks prior (also pregnant).

    Anyway, I drank an occasional glass of wine. I also had one cup of coffee every single day.

  28. Donna September 27, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    Eileen – I’m really not sure what you are arguing about here. People shouldn’t blindly follow their doctor, but people should also not use this book to bring up issues to discuss with their doctor? People should think for themselves, but ultimately follow their doctor above all else, even their own opinion based on their own research that may have included books such as this? Anything less than 100% agreement with a doctor means you have a bad relationship?

    I may discuss medical decisions with with my doctor, but, since we are not the exact same person, we are going to occasionally disagree on what is best for me and I am the final say, not the doctor. For example, my doctor is very pro-flu shot and I am very anti-flu shot for me. We’ve discussed the pros and cons and my thoughts on the subject ad nauseum. He still believes that everyone, including me, should get a flu shot and I still don’t want one. As long as he doesn’t give me a flu shot without my approval, we can agree to disagree on this issue and I’m not throwing out an otherwise good doctor because of this one minor issue, but I am also not getting a flu shot I don’t think is best for me no matter how many times he recommends it.

    Ultimately, I think the same about pregnancy. I ADORED my OB/GYN. We didn’t agree on everything during my pregnancy. Sometimes, after discussion, I went with what he said, sometimes I went with my own research and my own gut.

    I don’t consider it taking the advice of an economist over my doctor if I’ve considered both positions, my own beliefs, my own observations and ultimately decide that the economist makes more sense on this topic. Since intelligent minds often disagree about many things, I don’t consider it a bad doctor/patient relationship if we don’t agree about everything. Now if we didn’t agree about anything, that would be a different story.

  29. Havva September 27, 2013 at 11:39 am #

    You are quite right. The “I’d never forgive myself” no matter how minor or circumspect the possible fault is angle, comes up with every discussion of risk or potential risk (except getting in a car). Ultimately I think that is the root of the ‘worst first’ culture. Because if we blame ourselves and hold our selves unforgivable should anything happen… then we will find it obligatory to know every tiny risk and take every precaution, no matter how wild or unlikely to be useful lest we become unforgivable.

    Perhaps what society really needs is more understanding that life exists beyond grief. That forgiveness of self is both necessary and do-able. That I have been through the process, perhaps provides some inoculation.

  30. Renee Anne September 27, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    I generally avoided the “big” things like hot tubs/overly hot baths (which I really do like), bleu cheese, and deli meat. I didn’t give up my caffeine, though I reduced it. I don’t think I drank while I was pregnant…except before I knew. I continued doing everything I had been doing prior to pregnancy, including (but not limited to): waitressing, bartending, running, weight lifting, and bending over to touch my palms to the floor (all of which I could do up until two weeks before Little Man was born). I was basically told to keep doing what I was doing, that I was not a delicate flower that could break at any moment, caffeine wasn’t going to kill my kid or cause ADHD, and not having ultrasounds every month past 5 months was perfectly fine. Also, I didn’t get a lot of crap when I decided to not have any of the genetic testing done.

  31. Steve September 27, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    Over-the-top fears are often rooted in negative emotional issues from the past. Yet most people think they’re just being rational, safe, and smart.

  32. pentamom September 27, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    “As long as he doesn’t give me a flu shot without my approval, we can agree to disagree on this issue and I’m not throwing out an otherwise good doctor because of this one minor issue, but I am also not getting a flu shot I don’t think is best for me no matter how many times he recommends it. ”

    Exactly! It doesn’t have to be all or nothing — either I “trust my doctor” or I think for myself about how much I value his/her advice on a certain point.

    If I decide after consideration that something is either not really a significant risk, or personally worth the risk to me, I’m not going to get tied up in knots over the fact that my doctor said different. I will simply know that I am an adult capable of making my own decisions.

    I’m going to go into “old lady” mode here again, but one of the things I find baffling about my own generation and succeeding ones is the idea that you need a doctor to tell you when to feed your baby new foods. “Oh, we had such a good checkup, and the doctor said I can start her on cereal!” REALLY? You need permission to feed BABY CEREAL to a kid that’s old enough for it? I mean, sure, if you have no idea what’s appropriate at what ages, then you need to do some research or get some advice and a doctor’s an appropriate person to ask, but for heaven’s sake it’s food, not cancer drugs.

  33. K September 27, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    I’ve just about reached the end of my first trimester, and quite frankly, I had always expected to not be particularly interested in the food safety pregnancy rules. I always thought I’d be more worried about toxins than germs. Then I got knocked flat for several weeks by a cold that wouldn’t go away, and now I’m certainly more concerned about germs than I’ve ever been before (usually preferring the theory that more exposure to germs leads to a more robust immune system). So I’m trying to be mindful of my lowered immune system without turning into one of those crazy pregnant ladies, and I’m way more invested in not eating lunch meat than I thought I would be.

    And yet I’m also doing things, with my midwife’s approval, like continuing to bike regularly in NYC traffic, something that I’m sure will drive my mother-in-law to distraction if she ever finds out about it – she’s of the opinion that biking on roads is not safe for healthy adults, much less pregnant women and fetuses.

    BTW, I have not found the “What to Expect” book to be as scary as I keep hearing it is. I have the most recent version ($1.99 at a thrift store!) and either they’ve removed that controversial “every single bite” advice or I somehow skipped it. Plus, it seems like all the scary complications are segregated into a chapter of their own near the end, and are thus quite easy to avoid if you’re really just looking for what to expect.

  34. Claudia September 27, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    My rule for pregnancy ‘advice’ was ‘Have we done OK without this “knowledge” until now?’. Because as a rule, if we didn’t know it already, the risk of harm was probably negligible.

  35. Michelle September 27, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    In response to Eileen regarding listening to your doctor. A doctor’s job is to provide information, advice, and treatment. His job is NOT to make decisions for you. Doctors sometimes make mistakes, or work off of old information, or simply choose things that are different from what you would want for yourself. The ultimate responsibility for your health, and your child’s health, is on you. Completely relying on someone else for your healthcare decisions, without educating yourself and thinking for yourself, is irresponsible.

    Just off the top of my head, I can think of three times that a doctor or healthcare professional tried to give me (or my child) the wrong medication. Once, in what I can only assume was a mistake, an orderly in the hospital tried to DEMAND that I take pain medication that was contraindicated for pregnancy. (I was only 12 weeks, so didn’t look pregnant.) He would not listen when I explained that I was pregnant, and not even in pain, but only kept repeating that it was “doctor’s orders.” There was never an explanation for this, but I think he was in the wrong room.

    Another time, a new pediatrician tried to prescribe my then 8yo daughter a medication to which she was allergic. Good thing I was paying attention!

    Both of those times were simply mistakes, but if I had just followed “doctor’s orders” without knowing for myself what medications were or were not safe, there could have been serious consequences.

    The worst time was the doctor who prescribed a medication for me that had a high risk of miscarriage, while I was pregnant. At first he simply told me it was safe, but later admitted that he simply felt that treating my condition was more important than whether I lost my baby. (His exact words were, “The baby isn’t my patient, you are. It’s not my job to keep the baby alive.”) It was a very serious condition, and a tricky ethical issue that I can see both sides of, but ultimately it should have been MY decision whether I risked my baby’s life. I chose not to take the medication, BTW, and 8 years later that baby and I are both completely healthy.

    I’m grateful that I currently have a doctor who does not even try to make decisions for me. He gives me information, and advice, and asks what I would like to do. Most of the time, I take his advice. But if I’m uncomfortable with it, or uncertain, I look for more information. Luckily my husband works in a hospital, so I have access to lots of quality information, not just old wives’ tales or junk science passed along from other moms on message boards or blogs. It seems to me that Prof. Oster is attempting to make that kind of quality information more widely available, and I absolutely applaud her for it.

    Quality healthcare comes from educated, involved patients working with trained healthcare providers to make evidence-based decisions. Not from blindly following “doctor knows best.”

  36. Michelle September 27, 2013 at 1:41 pm #

    PS, I posted my comment when I was only about halfway through reading the other comments, and I see that the conversation has gone past what I said. So, you know, just take it as what it is.

  37. Julie September 27, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

    When I was pregnant the first time, I read all of What to Expect, and reread part of it, especially the chapters that correlated exactly to my point in my pregnancy. I did everything I was supposed to. And then I lost the baby. My OB/GYN was was very matter-of-fact about it: It happens. It’s more common than you think. (Anyone else know it’s 1 in 4 pregnancies? I didn’t.) It is not your fault. You did nothing wrong.

    And that was when I realized that it’s pretty much out of your hands. Your baby is going to make it or your baby is not. (Assuming common sense here. I’m not advocating drinking like a fish or taking up a crack habit.) So, should I eat well during pregnancy? Yes. But realize that a lot of women are ralphing up half of what they eat–and their babies are fine. My cheese pizza is probably fine, especially since I really, really want it. Can I ride on the ferris wheel? Seems no less dangerous than riding in my car. Is WORRY going to help this pregnancy? Not in the least. So let it go.

    I had two friends whose babies died at 34+ weeks in utero. Devastating. Preemies born that late are highly likely to make it. In both cases, the umbilical cord became entangled and prolapsed, cutting off all supply of everything from the mother. That was not something the mothers could have anticipated, nor was it something they could have prevented. Following all the steps doesn’t give any guarantees. It also doesn’t mean that if only they’d done something different those children would be alive.

  38. Steve September 27, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    I hope everyone reads what Michelle said:

    “The worst time was the doctor who prescribed a medication for me that had a high risk of miscarriage, while I was pregnant. At first he simply told me it was safe, but later admitted that he simply felt that treating my condition was more important than whether I lost my baby. (His exact words were, “The baby isn’t my patient, you are. It’s not my job to keep the baby alive.”)”

    I hope everyone remembers this the next time they allow their doctor to prescribe.

    Today with the internet, there is no good reason why YOU can’t research a medication and be aware of the risks you expose yourself to.

    And keep this in mind: Many of the worst so-called side effects, ( and I wouldn’t call death a side effect,) are not those like dry mouth and constipation mentioned in the first brief list you find on most websites.

    The FDA does not protect anyone from dangerous medications. And many doctors are ignorant of the real risks of most meds.

  39. QuicoT September 27, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    The good news is that, although it wasn’t easy, it seems like science has discovered an antidote to What to Expect When You’re Expecting –

  40. Cin September 27, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    This obsession with perfect pregnancies, and most especially with eating perfectly and avoiding all drugs, becomes actually harmful if you have hyperemesis gravidarum, or HG (extreme nausea and vomiting in pregnancy that can lead to malnutrition, weight loss, dehydration, hospitalization — and in severe, poorly treated cases, can lead to fetal and even maternal death.)
    I cannot describe to you the nasty, guilt-tripping, ignorant nonsense people will say to a mother suffering from this condition about her medications or the few foods she may be able to occasionally eat and keep down.

    I had nurses try to talk me out of taking my life-saving anti-vomiting drugs because “oh, they might hurt the baby.” NURSES! I responded with: “This drug is most likely not going to hurt my baby — but severe dehydration or starving to death sure will, and that’s what will happen without it.”

    For some reason, when a women with HG can eat, the only thing that stays down is often a carby, fatty junk food. The salad and water and other good things she desperately tries to eat for her baby come flying back out. That small order of fries may be the only nutrition a woman gets that week that doesn’t come in the form of IV fluids — and yet anyone watching her eat it may say things like: “oh, no wonder you’re sick!”
    I actually had a co-worker say “oh, that poor baby.”

    This obsession with perfection not only encourages fear — it can actively hurt pregnant women who are sick. It has to stop.

  41. Maresi September 27, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    Oh, dear – my two favorite purveyors of sanity, together in one blog post! You both are heroes of mine. Thank you for fighting the good fight!

  42. Mrs. H. September 27, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this message. I did everything you’re not supposed to do while pregnant:

    Drank coffee
    Drank alcohol almost daily
    Dyed my hair (myself! poison through the scalp AND the fingers!)
    Ate cold cuts
    Ate sushi OFTEN
    Drank real eggnog

    And everything else that is terribly, terribly risky.

    The result? My child is only in PERFECT health (injuries only so far, no illnesses) and scored 98th percentile nationally on a school readiness (IQ) test. If giving up my wine with dinner would have gotten her that one remaining point up to 99th percentile, it wouldn’t have been worth it.

  43. Mrs. H. September 27, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this message. I did everything you’re not supposed to do while pregnant:

    Drank coffee
    Drank alcohol almost daily
    Dyed my hair (myself! poison through the scalp AND the fingers!)
    Ate cold cuts
    Ate sushi OFTEN
    Drank real eggnog

    And everything else that is terribly, terribly risky.

    The result? My child is only in PERFECT health (injuries only so far, no illnesses) and scored 98th percentile nationally on a school readiness (IQ) test. And temperament-wise, she will definitely NOT be an adolescent at age 25. She’s practically grown up now at age five.

    If giving up my wine with dinner would have gotten her that one remaining point up to 99th percentile, it wouldn’t have been worth it.

  44. Crystal September 27, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

    When I was 10 weeks pregnant with my first, I ran a marathon. Everyone told me not to do it, including my OB-GYN. Since I had run 18 miles an hour after he was conceived, I figured my son would be fine for another 8.2 once he was further along. And I was right. Since then, I’ve run high mileage for all 3 of my pregnancies right up until labor starts. (And for my last, even after!).

  45. Emily September 27, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    That is why I HATE the “what to expect” books! They will give you high blood pressure all by themselves!

  46. marie September 27, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    Crystal, I read it as “…I had run 18 miles-an-hour after he was conceived…” and was really, really impressed. 🙂

  47. Ronni September 27, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

    I’m now 10 weeks pregnant with my 2nd child, and even when I was pregnant with my daughter in 2011, I was super laid back as first-time pregnant mom. AND my daughter had taken us 2 yrs to conceive too, so it wasn’t like I didn’t fully appreciate the pregnancy either.

    With both pregnancies so far, about the only “rule” I’ve followed is that I stay away from high-mercury fish. Oh and not smoking, but I wasn’t a smoker anyway.

    A couple months before I got pregnant this time, I did have an early miscarriage (at 5 weeks), and so I do know what it’s like to wonder if you could have done anything at all wrong to cause it, but I also know that these things just happen and I’ve had to trust that there was nothing I could have done either day.

    So thanks for the post! I agree with it! 🙂

  48. M Taylor September 27, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

    Emily Oster is a moron. Anyone who thinks that they can or have drank alcohol during pregnancy without harming their baby is a moron, too. You are playing roulette with an innocent being and have left your child to deal with your mess. That is one of the most acts I have seen a mother commit against her unborn child. While I agree with not worrying about the other things during pregnancy, alcohol is not something to take lightly.

  49. BPFH September 27, 2013 at 9:56 pm #

    @pentamom: At least when my kids were born (13.5 and 11 years ago, more or less), they were seriously pushing the idea that you shouldn’t feed your kids solid food until 6 months. If they’re still doing that, it would explain a lot.

  50. M Taylor September 27, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

    *selfish – most selfish

  51. CrazyCatLady September 27, 2013 at 11:01 pm #

    I think that it is good to remember that as little as 200 or so years ago, it was much safer to drink hard cider, wine or beer than it was water. Most every one had a drink of watered wine or such at most every meal. Including pregnant women. Who knows, maybe the babies were a few points lower in IQ points than they would have been if the mother had safe drinking water. But probably, if a woman wants a half glass of wine with her Christmas meal, it probably isn’t going to hurt the baby. Even having a small serving every day would be less than what most drank during Colonial America. Drinking to get drunk often during pregnancy…no, please don’t do that. THAT is not good.

  52. M Taylor September 28, 2013 at 12:00 am #

    You can have children whose brains are disabled by alcohol in utero who have super high IQ’s. My children struggle with memory issues, executive functioning issues, inability to completely understand cause and effect, poor impulse control & decision making, and plenty of emotional issues, too. It’s like swiss cheese, some parts of their brains function normally or even advanced (because those parts weren’t exposed), while other parts are impaired a little, a lot, or severely. It all depends on what is developing in their brains when you decided to drink that glass of wine: what is developing is damaged. Just wait until they get older and they just can’t calm down as well as the other children. Wait until they seem to be more depressed and don’t know how to utilize the tools the counselors give them. Just wait. Your little prodigy who suffers no effects of your “occasional” glass of wine has been hurt – beyond what you can see – but they have been hurt and damaged. Talk to my kids about how much they would love to “thank” their mother for having an occasional glass of wine with her meal – I’d like to be a fly on that wall.

  53. Donna September 28, 2013 at 7:14 am #

    M Taylor – Your kids don’t have problems because their mother had an occasional glass of wine while pregnant or even a daily glass of wine. They have problems because their mother regularly got drunk while pregnant.

    My aunt has fetal alcohol syndrome. Yes, my grandmother drank excessively while pregnant. It was usual for the time to drink some alcohol during pregnancy, but she drank to get drunk regularly. Now my grandmother, with her own revision of history told to herself so not to make her today self feel as guilty, will tell you that she only had an occasionally drink, but my mother (who was 10) will tell it very different. And no, my grandmother was/is not a horrible person. She is a wonderful, caring woman who was living in a time when people didn’t know the damage excessive alcohol could do during pregnancy. And, on the other side of the coin, she was also not an alcoholic who drank alcohol every day so there is a point when even social drinking is dangerous but it is not occasional or one glass a day.

    Considering until the 1980s women were not told not to drink during pregnancy and many did, if an occasional glass of wine truly caused problems, those problems would be the norm for behavior in society rather an a syndrome. Considering people in many countries still have wine or beer with dinner while pregnant today, if even a daily glass of alcohol caused problems, those problems would be the norm for behavior in those countries rather than a syndrome. Considering that many women don’t even realize they are pregnant for much of the first trimester and drink, sometimes even get drunk, if an occasional or daily drink was the problem, those problems would be highly prevalent. But they aren’t. Feral alcohol syndrome is rare, not the general state of being it would be if any alcohol consumption caused it.

  54. Donna September 28, 2013 at 7:17 am #

    “Fetal” alcohol syndrome.

  55. SKL September 28, 2013 at 8:14 am #

    Of course there are things you shouldn’t do when you are pregnant. Listening blindly to doctors and books is one of them.

    My kids’ birth moms were poor, single, working women in a developing country where women of their status typically have no real access to health care, internet research, or often even literacy. My kids are pretty OK. Are they 100% perfect? No, but neither is any kid I’ve met in the USA. One of them is intellectually gifted and the other is pretty talented physically. This is sort of my sanity check when I hear people going nuts about every little detail of prenatal / infant care.

    Yes, there are things that are really dangerous to an embryo/fetus/infant/child. If we could focus on just those few things, it seems there would be a greater likelihood of moms being aware of and willing to avoid those few things.

  56. Claudia September 28, 2013 at 9:24 am #

    In fact, I was thinking last night it would be nice to celebrate how amazing our bodies are at making and protecting babies. Instead of calling women out for exercising while pregnant, or deigning to have an occasional glass of wine.

  57. pentamom September 28, 2013 at 11:24 am #

    “Just wait until they get older and they just can’t calm down as well as the other children. Wait until they seem to be more depressed and don’t know how to utilize the tools the counselors give them. Just wait. Your little prodigy who suffers no effects of your “occasional” glass of wine has been hurt – beyond what you can see – but they have been hurt and damaged.”

    Is 22.5 old enough? None of my kids (12-22)has any of the issues you raise, nor any other significant health or neuro issues of any kind. I frankly don’t remember which times I drank while pregnant and which times I didn’t (, but it was never more than genuinely “occasional” in any case, unless you want to count the last few weeks with #2 where I had a half glass of Manischewitz nearly every evening because it was the only thing that dealt with my heartburn (yeah, I know, wine isn’t supposed to work but try living in my pregnant body for a month and telling it that.)

    Donna is right — FAS and FAE are not caused by an “occasional” glass of alcohol, if we’re really using the word “occasional” appropriately. And contrary to some of the anti-alcohol propaganda out there, not everybody is incapable of accurately reporting their level of usage and some people really do only drink “occasionally” and in small amounts.

  58. CrazyCatLady September 28, 2013 at 11:45 am #

    Oh, and most every women I know who has had at least 2 or more kids, has had a miscarriage. Maybe it was their first pregnancy, maybe it was the 3rd or 4th, but it is REALLY common and for no apparent reason. Most have been really early, some much later. It is hard to go through, but it does help to know that it happens to a lot more woman than generally gets talked about.

    Which is why some of the laws about “personhood” really concern me – there is potential for women to be “held responsible” for the death of the fetus when in fact they may have had no control at all. But because women don’t talk that much about miscarriages, the mostly male lawmakers don’t get this.

  59. M Taylor September 28, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    I agree kids are going to have issues however and where ever they are born, but alcohol issues (whether we want to admit they are there or not) are 100% avoidable. Why don’t we give our kids a break and not expose them to this in the first place.

  60. SKL September 28, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    That’s a really good point about how common miscarriages are and how few people realize that. Most of the time a miscarriage is an act of God (or however your beliefs would have you state it). The mindset that women have tremendous control over the status of their unborn child is actually hurtful to those who have miscarried. Our bodies are amazing, but some things just aren’t meant to be.

  61. Lillian September 28, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    As far as drinking during pregnancy, this study has been lauded for its thoroughness and scope. Children of occasional drinkers score better on cognitive tests than teetotallers.
    Perhaps doctors don’t share this info because telling moms they can drink a little will give some a license to binge drink.

    On another note, a colleague of mine questioned during my last pregnancy if I should be drinking my coffee that morning. I wanted to retort that it was so noble that she was an OB who decided to take a pay cut to teach high school with the rest of us. I just told her my doctor said it was okay.

  62. Donna September 28, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    M Taylor – Pregnant women don’t need to stop drinking because most are not alcoholics and can drink in moderation and drinking in moderation has absolutely no detrimental effect on the baby.

  63. SKL September 28, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    “Perhaps doctors don’t share this info because telling moms they can drink a little will give some a license to binge drink.”

    I think a lot of doctor advice is like this. Don’t spank, because some sickos will beat, kill, and maim their kids. Don’t potty train before preschool, because some parents can’t handle the frustration. Don’t be strategic about what your heavy kid is eating, because some kids get malnourished and some develop eating disorders. Vaccinate for chickenpox, because one in x million kids dies of it. Rear face your kid’s car seat until he’s in middle school, because 1 in 50 million properly restrained kids will be in an unavoidable, head-on, high-speed accident where it matters. Don’t let your infant have a blankie or teddy bear, because 1 in xx million kids get SIDS which *might* have something to do with blankies (but probably doesn’t). Ugh. Then they wonder why many of us are skeptical of what the medical profession tells us.

  64. lollipoplover September 28, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

    I just hate the blame game against mothers. It now starts even earlier, in utero. When we overanalyize every piece of lint that goes into making a baby, why aren’t the fathers getting any blame for bad sperm and genes? Neonatal nutrition is just one finger on the hand of what develops a child. Babies can face tremendous odds when they are born prematurely. Then we blame the mom for having too much stress that she caused the premature baby. The toddler found wandering- we say, where was the mother? The blaming never stops.

  65. Janet September 28, 2013 at 10:51 pm #

    Hooray, someone playing the same statistics game that I do!

    I had an ectopic pregnancy after my second child. I joined an internet forum for women who had suffered the same thing. My overwhelming impression was how scared most of them were to try again in case the same thing happened. Whereas I looked up the statistics, realised that was unlikely (possible, but unlikely), and decided I couldn’t be that unlucky.

    I wasn’t. (In fact, after I had my 3rd child, I went on to have fraternal twins, one from each ovary, despite the fact that I am missing my fallopian tube on the left side – how’s that for statistical improbability?!)

    When I was pregnant with my first child (now nearly 11), I lived in the UK. I distinctly remember my first appointment with the midwife, going through all the check boxes of what I needed to know, and I was allowed one unit of alcohol a day. That was the advice being dispensed by the NHS! Of course, I was only an occasional drinker, so I probably didn’t even get to one a week.

    I remember being pregnant (this time in the USA) with #2 (now nearly 9), and one of my friends was also pregnant. We were both about 8 months pg when we went out for pre-Christmas girly dinner. The waiter, when he came to pour wine for the group, automatically reached to take our glasses away. Both my friend and I objected strenuously, and made him pour us a glass. He was very concerned.

    The other thing I did a lot of while pregnant was take medication. Initially I tried not to, but the one day I nearly vomited on the train on the way home from work due to a cracking migraine, I took my usual meds and thought, “If this does something to the baby, I don’t care because I would rather die than be in this much pain.” (If you’ve had a migraine, you’ll probably understand this sentiment.) Of course, nothing happened to the baby except that she turned out to be academically gifted and talented at sport. I suppose I could blame her lack of singing ability on the medication, but I could equally blame it on her father 😉

  66. Warren September 29, 2013 at 11:28 am #

    Just my opinion, but wouldn’t the stress of trying to always make the right choice be more harmful, to mom and child, than any minor mistake one might make.

    If you cannot trust your doctor to stay current on issues, and have to do your own research, then you have the wrong doctor.

  67. pentamom September 29, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    “The other thing I did a lot of while pregnant was take medication. Initially I tried not to, but the one day I nearly vomited on the train on the way home from work due to a cracking migraine, I took my usual meds and thought, “If this does something to the baby, I don’t care because I would rather die than be in this much pain.” (If you’ve had a migraine, you’ll probably understand this sentiment.) Of course, nothing happened to the baby except that she turned out to be academically gifted and talented at sport. I suppose I could blame her lack of singing ability on the medication, but I could equally blame it on her father ;)”

    IMO the medical profession really needs to address this. You will NOT convince me that the minor, unproven risk to a fetus from a mild anti-nausea drug is a bigger concern than the overall decline in maternal health caused by untreated HG, or even ordinary morning sickness, recurring migraines, and similar issues. Malnutrition and anemia can be real issues even if the HG isn’t bad enough for hospitalization or the kind of “extreme” cases where they actually will deign to FINALLY give you something.

    If I had to do it all over again, I would definitely self-medicate with the occasional Benadryl to get some solid food in. My first OB gave me something (I believe it amounted to a strong antihistamine that just made me drowsy enough to relax and stop being overwhelmed by the nausea) because I wound up in the ER once for HG, but with the subsequent pregnancies I just got a lot of advice about crackers, weak tea, and ginger, which provided a tiny degree of relief but didn’t ultimately permit me to eat any better or function normally for the four month stretches during which I was plagued by sickness.

  68. pentamom September 29, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    I agree 100% with SKL. This is about giving the lowest common denominator advice. There’s this presumption that if you tell women it’s okay to drink occasionally during pregnancy, they’ll think their weekly binges or alcoholic behavior is just fine — as if all the everyday warnings against that don’t otherwise exist. If you tell them it’s okay to do X, they’ll take it as a license to do X to ridiculous excess and make no allowances for the demands of pregnancy. I think it’s an indivisible mixture of condescension, fear of malpractice, and laziness about judging which women present themselves as intelligent enough to tell the difference between a glass of wine at dinner once a month and going out partying every Saturday night. In my book one of the best marks of a “routine care” physician (someone you would see as a primary care or ordinary prenatal care doc) is their ability to quickly grasp that I’m a decently well-informed, mature adult who needs advice and information, not marching orders. I DO listen to advice but I do not want to be told what do as though I cannot understanding the underlying reasoning and just need orders.

  69. Papilio September 29, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

    When an aunt of mine was pregnant again after her second child, it didn’t go well and the doctor told her that if she didn’t want a miscarriage, she should stay in bed for like the next 6-7 months.
    Being a very level-headed farmer’s daughter and already the mother of two girls who both had had a minor birth defect, she refused. She just said, if I miscarry, then that’s nature deciding there’s something wrong with this foetus.
    That was that. They remained a family of four.

  70. SKL September 29, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    Yeah, between being laughed at for wanting to delay / spread out MMR and being told that my kids would DIE if I didn’t vax them for chickenpox, I really have no desire to ever go to a doctor again. I had to go annually to meet school requirements from age 2.5-5.5 but now I am done. Only if I think we might have strep or the like do I darken their doorstep.

    Granted, I’ve never been pregnant. Not sure, but I would probably work with someone in an alternative field rather than subject myself to what the MDs dish out.

    My mom had 6 kids and told me many stories. Her 5th pregnancy was the first time she had “good insurance.” It was also her worst pregnancy and birth and most difficult, least intelligent kid (no, that wasn’t me). 😉 She blames it on the prenatal vitamin regime among other things. Her best experience was the time she got to the hospital so late that the baby was born before they had a chance to “do anything” to her.

  71. Donna September 29, 2013 at 9:27 pm #

    It seems that a few here really need a new doctor. I may not agree with my doctors about everything, but if I viewed them as someone who’s doorstep I don’t want to darken, I’d sure as hell find a new doctor.

  72. JaneW September 29, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

    Okay, I’m currently well along in pregnancy, and I am definitely opposed to the onslaught of crazy “nos” we are subjected to. I do my own research on what’s safe and what isn’t, and I cheerfully ignore the old wives’ tales. I’m somewhat more careful about food poisoning, certain drugs, and hand-washing, but in the past 48 hours I’ve eaten lunch meat, candy and cupcakes, gone hiking through the woods up and down hills at midnight, and helped cook a meal for 40, including carrying large pots of water and handling mass quantities of raw chicken.

    However, I’m seeing one disturbing attitude on this thread, and that’s a blase attitude towards vaccines.

    Why vaccinate? Because the costs of getting the shot are minimal, and it COULD prevent serious harm. Yes, your child is more likely to die in a car accident than from a contagious disease, but

    a) That’s partly because we HAVE vaccines
    b) Preventing car accidents would require you to never get in a car, or even cross a street. It would limit everything you do every day of your life. Getting a vaccine is a few minutes out of your day, and then you don’t need to worry about it any more.
    c) The probability of your child actually dying from a vaccine-preventable disease is small, but for most of those diseases, even a normal case is pretty darned unpleasant. Why should your child have to suffer?

    In this world, there are many terrible things that can happen to us. Thankfully, we live in a time and place where most are quite rare. There are ones which are absolutely unpreventable, like getting killed by a falling roof tile walking down the street. There are bad things which can only be prevented at absurd cost, like protecting your child from kidnapping by keeping her within arm’s reach at all times until age 18. Sometimes, however there are ways to make life safer that involve minimal cost or inconvenience. Wear a seatbelt, put the kids in a baby seat. Lock your door when you go out or go to bed. And get all your recommended vaccines, unless you’ve got a real medical reason not to, which is a pretty rare situation.

  73. JaneW September 29, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

    @Pentamom: Among actual medical professionals, the attitude towards anti-nausea medications are changing. A couple years ago, there was a truly massive study showing Zofran has no detectable risks, and doctors are much less reluctant to prescribe it, especially when morning sickness threatens to cause dehydration or malnutrition. Finally people are beginning to get over the spectre of thalidomide.

    However, some folks who AREN’T medical professionals will still judge women very harshly for taking anti-nausea medicines during pregnancy. Me, I just smile and nod at them, and happily nibble my Zofran.

  74. SKL September 29, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

    JaneW, I’ve seen vaccine injuries up close and personal. Just because there’s a vax for something doesn’t mean we all ought to get the vax, the earlier the better. Not all vaxes are equal. A pros/cons analysis is appropriate for each vax, for each child.

    When everyone got measles and chickenpox as kids, death was rare AND the adult population was safer because of natural lifelong immunity – some of which they were able to pass along to their babies. Now we’ve shifted the risks from young kids, who normally get relatively mild cases, to older people, who get much more dangerous cases. And we’ve simultaneously created a “blame” population (non-vaxers) who are falsely accused of creating this risk just because they don’t buy into the fearmongering. Myself, I felt forced to vax my kids (though on a delayed schedule) because the vaxers made it extremely unlikely for my kids to get the natural lifelong immunity that older generations enjoy. And because I don’t want to have to fight with their school and doctors about it year after year.

  75. Bob Davis September 30, 2013 at 3:11 am #

    Regarding the “radiation vest” when using a computer–that warning probably dates back to the days of CRT (cathode ray tube) displays. Today’s flat panels do not have even the possibility of harmful radiation. The old CRTs, which were the same technology as the TV sets of the last century, could generate X-rays if the secondary accelerator voltage was high enough, and I think this was only a hazard in TV sets that were 25 inches or more, and possibly early color TVs. When this possibility was discovered, TV manufacturers were required to use radiation-absorbing glass in front of picture tubes in larger TVs. Note that this information is from memories of 45 years as an electronic tech, and some of the details may need correction, but the main message is–don’t fear the flat panel video display.

  76. Donna September 30, 2013 at 7:03 am #

    I think that I’m the only other one that mentioned vaccines and all I said is that I’m anti-flu vaccine for me. In 43 years, I’ve NEVER had the flu. I see no reason to vaccinate against something that I already seem to have a natural immunity to. I don’t vaccinate my child for the flu for the exact same reason – she is not prone to getting the flu (although she has had it once in 8 years). Should I ever become a person who gets the flu every year, I may change my mind.

    I can understand doctor’s frustration with the anti-vaccine crowd though. It is one thing to base your decisions on actual statistics and another to base them on a B-list actress and a completely discredited study. Not saying that is what SKL is doing but that is what they see daily and as a result are dealing with hospitalizations and deaths of children for diseases that were all but irradicated before those two things hit the scene. It must be horribly frustrating and sad to watch a child die from a disease that was 100% preventable by vaccine that you would have provided if allowed because your patient’s parents listened to Jenny McCarthy instead of every medical professional on the planet.

  77. Lola September 30, 2013 at 7:40 am #

    You want to know the last one? A friend of mine was told two weeks ago that she shouldn’t caress her tummy too much, because that might provoke contractions and she could induce labour too soon!

  78. brian September 30, 2013 at 8:43 am #

    B list actress? You mean a porn star. Jenny McCarthy is famous for being naked, not for anything else.

    She is now promoting e-cigarettes. Between that and vaccines I guess she just wants less people on this planet. (yes e-smokes can be good for quitting but they appear to be mostly used to keep people smoking since they can be used indoors without second hand smoke).

    She is a terrible person who should be shunned by society.

  79. pentamom September 30, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    JaneW, I’m glad to hear that. I forget that it’s been over a decade since I’ve really been in touch with the OB world so things may be changing and I wouldn’t realize it.

  80. Shay September 30, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    I read What to Expect with my first pregnancy, way back in 2001, and threw the book across the room after the fourteenth repetition of how the only allowable treat was a “fruit-juice-sweetened cookie”. One. (Not to mention the advice to stay away from computer monitors during my whole pregnancy. They didn’t tell me how I was supposed to buy the fruit juice to sweeten my single cookie when I couldn’t do my job.)

    Unfortunately, my baby was stillborn due to a chromosomal anomaly that caused massive birth defects. There was absolutely nothing I could have done to prevent that from happening – it was inevitable from the moment his cells began to divide – or to save his life. But that didn’t make my guilt any less. I lay awake at night for years afterward trying to come up with a way I could have saved him. And that is what I think about in those risk assessments that end in “I could never live with myself”. There’s no getting away from a feeling of responsibility, no matter how much bubble-wrap you use. It’s part of the package that you have to learn to live with and get past. And the idea that some moms can “live with themselves” after losing their child and others can’t is so elitist.

    The other thing that stunned me was the casualness of the blame game. I was (and am) very open about what happened to me, and in the time after my baby died, I can’t count the number of people – family, friends, and perfect strangers – who asked me what I had done, as though it was a foregone conclusion that if my baby died in utero, it must be because I had screwed up. I remain outraged by that not in a personal sense but in a larger sense – why must we attack grieving mothers?

    Overall, I think it’s the lack of empathy that has always concerned me. Personally, certainly – in 2001 there was a definite stigma associated with having gone through a stillbirth – and in a more general sense. I’d have done whatever I could to save my baby, and I assume any other woman I meet who has lost a child would have felt the same way in her own circumstance. I don’t understand the mindset that assumes otherwise, and that is where I think the “What to Expect” ladies have contributed – to the idea that it’s possible to prevent it all and therefore if a mother has failed to prevent something, it’s on her. But the world has never been that simple, and it never will be.

  81. SKL September 30, 2013 at 9:15 am #

    I do not listen to celebrities, I listen to my brain, my personal observations, and reliable research. Aside from all the vax hype I would not even know who Jenny McCarthy was.

    The last time I checked, there have been zero deaths from measles in recent decades. So the argument that doctors must be sad watching all those poor babies die doesn’t fly wrt MMR. With respect to pertussis, yes. Like I said, not all vaxes are equal. But that said, the sheer number of vaxes they try to push on our babies without even a brief parent-doctor discussion is enough to set my sirens off. It’s counterproductive.

  82. SKL September 30, 2013 at 9:21 am #

    Oh, and “every medical professional on the planet” does not stand behind the current US recommended vax schedule. Not by a loooooong shot.

  83. Denise September 30, 2013 at 10:08 am #

    I used this author’s fact based research to determine what to do about prenatal testing. (While she did not discuss the harmony21 screening, I was left in a situation where two tests did not get enough DNA). I talked to my doctor about the importance of this testing and made an informed decision to cancel the CVS when my ultrasound came back so well. Between that and the bloodwork, my daughter has the same chances of having Downs as a child of a woman in her early 20s.

    Give a woman facts and not guilt, you make her empowered.

  84. SKL September 30, 2013 at 10:45 am #

    Don’t even get me started on how they counsel you that you NEED to know if your child is going to be abnormal as early as possible so you can abort it. Whether you believe in that or not.

    When my mom was pregnant with #6 (age 35) they tried to talk her into amniocentesis (sp??), which was (at that time) known to kill 3% of the babies tested! WTH? My mom’s doctor gave her a LOT of grief until she said flatly, “I wouldn’t abort it anyway.” Ugh.

    Parents of children with Down syndrome have expressed hurt at high % of DS babies who are aborted. And I bring that up because that’s another example of how modern society thinks we can and should prevent every complication, one way or another. I’ve heard people even say that moms were selfish to have a child with issues instead of aborting. Wish we could go back to the days when some things were meant to be / not meant to be and that was OK.

  85. Donna September 30, 2013 at 10:50 am #

    SKL – There haven’t been any deaths from measles in the US. However, I’m sure you noted that I said hospitalizations and deaths and about 40% of children in the US who do contract measles are hospitalized with complications of said measles.

    I do agree that all vaccines are not created equal. I do think that kids are way over-vaccinated today. Not because the vaccines are harmful but because the illness that we have now started vaccinating against are, except in the rarest of cases, little more than annoyances and there is no reason to prevent their existence other than a general dislike of being sick. That doesn’t mean that I think we should change the ones that the anti-vaccine people are generally up in arms over (MMR for example), but that we should exclude many that are now considered mandatory (chicken pox for example).

    As for observations, I admit that I am HIGHLY skeptical of claims by people who have seen vaccine injuries (plural). While I certainly cannot claim to know everyone in the world, I’ve lived many places in both the US and abroad, know many people and spend much of my life digging extensively into the medical/mental health histories of hundreds of people a year in order to find anything that would explain why they do the crazy things they do. I have in my life met a grand total of 0 people with actual, diagnosed vaccine injuries. I have met a grand total of one family with a single member with an actual, diagnosed vaccine injury. I have on the other hand met many people who either claim to have a a child with a vaccine injury but get cagey when asked if it has ever been diagnosed or who claim to know someone with a vaccine injury but cannot give any real details when pushed. Unless you are getting tainted MMR vaccines in wherever it is you live, I call BS on you knowing several people with actual, verifiable vaccine injuries.

    Since even different states don’t immunize at the same time and in the same combination, I don’t doubt that there are substantial variations around the world. It is, however, universally agreed upon by reputable doctors that (a) all children should be vaccinated barring a genuine, identifiable health issue, (b) vaccines are less harmful that the diseases, and (c) there is no autism/MMR connection.

  86. anonymous this time September 30, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    Just like I seem to be missing the “I have to make sure NOTHING could POSSIBLY happen to harm my child in any way or else I would never forgive myself” gene, I seem to be missing the “If anything is wrong with my child it is because I have done something WRONG” gene.

    I miscarried, early, during my first pregnancy. It didn’t occur to me to blame myself for that. I knew that a huge percentage of pregnancies end in miscarriage. It wasn’t even that much of a shock in some ways, as I hadn’t “felt pregnant” (although I didn’t know how it would feel anyway). It was still a trauma, I elected a D & C for quick closure, and it threw me for a big psychological loop, partly because the pregnancy had derailed adoption plans, and it felt like two miscarriages in one month.

    My mother-in-law at the time, however, tried to convince me NOT to have the D & C. She went on and on about how my SIL had been told she was miscarrying years ago, had elected the D & C, but ALWAYS HAD REGRETS because she was sure she’d killed her baby, that her baby had still been alive. So I shouldn’t have the D & C because my BABY COULD STILL BE ALIVE.

    I think that was the one time I hung up on her.

  87. SKL September 30, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    If you read the product insert for MMR vax (obviously prepared by pro-vax people), you will see that 5% of kids who get the vax had bad enough results to have them officially reported to the government. There are many others that are not reported to the government databases, for obvious reasons. I mean, you would have to get your pediatrician to agree that the vaccine caused the problem, and that’s going to be a push, which most of us don’t have time for.

    The person I know most closely with a vax injury is my younger sister. She became very sick for 6 months after having MMR/DPT/polio vaxes together (which is common practice) and she developed epilepsy, which is a known complication of the MMR vax.

    I know others who are confident that their child has issues from vaxes, whether or not they can get the pro-vax industry to listen to them. Given all the obvious bias (financial and otherwise), just because doctors turn a deaf ear to these concerns (after the fact) does not mean the concerns are not valid. The idea that every parent with such a claim is some kind of lunatic is ridiculous. These are ordinary parents who observed something frightening that transformed their child immediately after the vax. While I am aware of the back-and-forth research over autism and MMR, I am also aware that the CDC acknowledges that neurological damage has been linked with the MMR in a significant number of cases. They don’t tell people that, though. For some reason they don’t want parents to know there are risks – which is ironic considering that the whole point of a vax is to address a small risk of catastrophic illness. Knowing the facts simply does not generate trust in the industry.

    When I took my kids to their 1yr check-up, the doc asked if my kids had had eggs, and I said no. Then he proceeded to go get the MMR vax to administer (without even discussing it with me first). I made him stop and give me the fact sheets so I could weigh in on the decision. Well, right there it says MMR must never be given to anyone with an egg allergy. My kid could have had an allergy, but the doctor was in such a rush to vax he would have harmed my kid rather than wait until we were sure. BTW in my state there has not even been 1 case of measles in recent years, so it’s not like he was trying to fight an epidemic. :/ BTW even Dr. Sears recommends delaying the MMR until after age 2. That should be the norm in my opinion. I’m not sure why that’s such a controversial suggestion.

    My parents’ whole generation had measles, as did their parents, and their parents, bla bla bla. As did many of my friends from foreign countries. If it was such a terrible disease, the human species would have died out by now, instead of overpopulating the earth ;). MMR isn’t even pushed in many developed countries the way it is here. I believe I’ve heard that about UK and Japan, for instance. People can get the vax but it isn’t a big crisis if folks decline.

    So what we have here is a battle of the hysterics. Hysterics over the small risk of developing a disease that usually is not deadly, vs. hysterics over the small risk of vax injury. Of course only the latter are called on their overreaction.

    I will never understand why it can’t simply be a choice made by parents, many of whom will vax, some of whom will not. No politics and exaggerated emotions necessary.

    The health professional my family now uses does not recommend vaxes, nor do many health philosophies around the world. The fact that educated people take it for granted that “everyone agrees on this” is telling. It really couldn’t be further from the truth.

  88. Beth September 30, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    @anonymous this time, you and I could be related…I am also missing that gene! I had two miscarriages, as well as delivering twins at 6 months who did not survive. I was able to forgive myself, as I examined my behavior, my eating, my activities, etc. and determined that these sad happenings were not my fault.

    The D&C threw me for a loop psychologically too, because I knew it was really, really over and any secret irrational hope I’d had that the baby was actually still alive would remain secret, irrational, and, well, wrong.

  89. Denise September 30, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    SKL- my niece in law was born with Downs and a bad heart defect that needed her mother to be at a hospital in another state to deliver. Prenatal testing can save a life.

    And yes, I would abort if the child had such a serious life long defect. I know what I can handle and what I can’t. And I have the right to know about my child.

  90. Papilio September 30, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    In the end it’s the parents’ choice of course. I think there’s nothing wrong with wanting healthy children, so why not use technology for that. Quality of life is at least as important as quantity of life, and there are so many horrible syndroms and hereditary illnesses I wouldn’t want my children to suffer from…!
    (Personally I’d also abort a foetus with Down Syndrome – I really don’t care what parents of DS people think.)

  91. SKL September 30, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    Of course there is nothing wrong with healthy children, but the fact is, you get what you get. Even perfect genes and perfect behavior don’t guarantee anything. Not one thing. That’s the problem with what is essentially a eugenics mindset. Well, one of the problems. The other problem is the irony of us imperfect humans thinking we have a clue what perfect looks like.

  92. Blue September 30, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    I think there is a difference between not over-obsessing (bad, goes along with our over-anxious helicopter culture) and using the information we have intelligently. Knowledge is power.

    How you want to deal with risk depends on who you are. For me personally, having had miscarriages, avoiding deli meat seemed like a small price to pay to know that that particular factor would not be responsible for putting me through that same hell again. It had nothing to do with wanting to do it “perfectly.” There is a very real difference between obsessing about perfection and taking reasonable precautions. I mean, I wear a seatbelt when I drive too.

    I don’t think it’s Free Range to just ignore risk completely–that’s not Free Range, that’s just dumb. Where you draw the line in terms of pregnancy practices needs to come from real knowledge and personal comfort level–not from pretending risks don’t exist, and not from pretending you can avoid them completely.

  93. Ellie September 30, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    Again, these are first-world problems. Women who are in a position to worry about such things aren’t spending their entire day scrounging up enough food to actually stay alive and keep a fetus alive, or prevent malnutrition, the way millions of women have to do in this world. Therefore, we are told to worry that every bite of non-organic, dairy, fish, meat, and salted snack is going to do harm. More than 20 years ago, pregnant with my first child, I was given a copy of “What to Expect,” and after realizing that in order to fulfill their so-called healthy quota of grains, fruits, vegetables, and protein EVERY DAY for nine months, I wouldn’t have the time, money, or energy to do anything else, including work or sleep. I gave up on the book at that point. “What to Expect the First Year” is just as bad…so you can worry if your child isn’t on schedule with development, not eating correctly, or about to come down with rare but fatal diseases.

  94. Ellie September 30, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    For Shay: I’m so sorry for your loss. I am also appalled that you had to have people inflicting hurtful comments under the assumption that you must have done something wrong (otherwise it wouldn’t have happened). Bad things can and do happen randomly, or in such a way that nobody could have foreseen what might happen. It seems to be a sad fact of human nature that people try to find explanations for tragedies so that they feel protected and safe if they avoid doing whatever it is they think “caused” them to happen. (“I knew a woman who ate pancakes while pregnant and lost the baby, so don’t eat pancakes.”)

    The only thing ever acceptable to say in such a situation is “I’m sorry” or “how can I help out.” I hope that you have family and friends who helped you through such a rough time as opposed to thickheaded people like that.

  95. anonymous this time September 30, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    “the human species would have died out by now, instead of overpopulating the earth”

    Well, maybe not died out, but certainly wouldn’t have become so… ahem… “successful.”

    The way I see it, there is a huge irony here: what were once real hazards for children that caused death or paralysis in childhood have been all but eradicated with vaccines, antibiotics, and pasteurization. And seat belts!!

    So now, children don’t die. Okay, they do, but it’s become very rare. And along with the rarity of death of children comes longer life spans for adults, and pretty soon, the last thing we need to worry about is the individual death of one person, from any cause.

    The real worry is what to do with all the people who are alive and consuming, and all their waste and emissions. I can pretty much guarantee that all the hand-wringing done over each bite of food or drop of liquid a pregnant woman ingests we in the über-consuming world obsess over now will seem like quite a joke compared to what may be coming in terms of crop failures, food supply interruption, rising temperatures, extreme weather events, and the like.

    So. We’re so successful we’re killing ourselves. Hooray.

  96. hineata September 30, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

    Some ethnic groups do seem more prone to developing serious complications from certain diseases, lacking resistance to said diseases so it makes sense to continue to vaccinate, seeing with the exception, I think, of the BCG, vaccines now come from dead virus rather than living. Our health system here pushes MMR and polio, but certainly not chickenpox – am still not quite sure why that is vaccinated against. Money?Lots of us still have the ‘pox’ parties, LOL!

    For kids like mine, with Maori and Asian ancestry (and possibly Polynesian in general, not sure), the BCG (against TB) is still offered while you’re in hospital after the birth, because Maori originally had a high susceptibility to TB, and it’s potluck obviously what genes you inherit. Same with Chinese/other Asians I think, and in any case where my mother-in-law comes from there is still TB, so not worth the risk.

    Now to my point – are some vaccines targeted to certain ethnic groups in the States too? Or is everyone expected to have everything?

  97. baby-paramedic September 30, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

    We have targetted vaccinations in my state. Drives me nuts that I work in with high risk of contact with certain diseases that can be vaccinated against, husband gets the vaccinations for free due to who his grandparents were, and I have to fork out hundreds of dollars to have them (and often argue with the doctors to have them – “Not on your schedule!” “Yes, but do you know how many members of the community I serve have this easily spread disease? It may be rare in the city, it’s not rare where I work!”

    One thing about vaccinations that makes me wary is all the combination ones. Makes it more difficult to choose some vaccinations, and avoid others for whatever reason.

  98. JaneW September 30, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

    Definitely, diagnostic sonograms have purposes other than abortion! My cousin had a baby with a severe heart defect just a few months ago. Because it was diagnosed long before he was born, she was able to find the best hospital in the region and travel there to have the baby. He was on oxygen the minute he was born and in the hands of a top surgeon moments later. As a result, he’s already had two out of a planned three corrective surgeries. He’s growing like a weed and meeting developmental milestones, and he should go on to live a normal life. If he’d been born in an ordinary neighborhood hospital, he might well have died.

    But folks who aren’t afraid of measles? As recently as 1990, 85 people in the US died from it. Europe has seen deaths this year. And the third-world death rates are still in the hundreds of thousands. If we had no measles shots, it’d be about 500 deaths per year in the USA. (And many thousands of hospitalized kids, and a couple million dreadfully sick miserable kids.)

  99. Papilio October 1, 2013 at 11:39 am #

    “Of course there is nothing wrong with healthy children, but the fact is, you get what you get. Even perfect genes and perfect behavior don’t guarantee anything. Not one thing. That’s the problem with what is essentially a eugenics mindset. Well, one of the problems. The other problem is the irony of us imperfect humans thinking we have a clue what perfect looks like.”

    Of course you get what you get, there is simply no way you can influence everything. But now you’re shifting the discussion to the far other end of the spectrum. I was talking about avoiding syndroms that causes the kid to die before the age of five, about Huntington’s, about severely disabled children who will never learn to walk (or move themselves around in general), talk (or sign, or point at symbols…), or even swallow on their own, whose autism and low IQ causes sensory overload all the time so they bang their heads against the wall.
    That kind of thing.

    Calling avoiding that striving for perfection sounds a bit… odd to me. Avoiding black doesn’t leave you with white, it leaves you with white and a gazillion shades of grey.

  100. SKL October 1, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    Well, Papilio, we were talking about Down syndrome and other issues that are not fatal in themselves.

    There is a boy with DS in my Tae Kwon Do class (looks about 8 or 9). He’s going to do his yellow belt test this Saturday. He is not a vegetable and I’m extremely happy to see him in class each week.

  101. Papilio October 1, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

    @SKL: OK, so forget I mentioned toddler-killing syndroms – that still leaves Huntington and many other severe conditions with severe effects on the quality of life.
    Anyway, you objected to pre-natal testing and said “Wish we could go back to the days when some things were meant to be / not meant to be”, which sounds anti-choice, while I’m very glad that people have a choice these days (also if that means *not* having such a child).

    Have fun with your DS student. (Eh – they are more likely to be heart patients, but vegetables??! I miss a lot of grey here.)

  102. SKL October 2, 2013 at 12:25 am #

    Papilio, I don’t oppose genetic testing; I think parents should be informed of the options and not pressured one way or the other. I do personally oppose testing for the purpose of aborting “undesireable” children, but there are other valid reasons to test – assuming the test is safe.

    What you missed in my comments was that the doctors were pushing a test that was killing 3% of the babies who were perfectly healthy. (Beside the fact that the test wasn’t all that accurate, leading to abortions of normal kids.) Abortion aside, in what world is a 3% death risk acceptable? I’m talking about women whose only risk factor was being in their mid-30s. And what to say about the women who were brow-beaten into allowing that test (or just assumed it was safe)? Was it wrong, as some suggest, for my mom to get educated outside of the doctor’s office and make her own decision?

  103. hineata October 2, 2013 at 5:33 am #

    @baby-paramedic – am very surprised with your situation – that sounds like a real pain! I thought you were Australian, and hence would have a similar system to what we have here. I’m pretty sure here medical professionals and other such get their immunisations free. Seems a bit rough that you have to pay to protect yourself from what amount to job risks…

    Am glad at least one of you (husband) doesn’t have to pay, but still seems wrong 🙁

  104. Papilio October 2, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    @SKL: Ooooh – all your ranting was about that same thing? Sorry, I thought you meant it more in general. (Refusing an inaccurate test that kills 3% of those babies did not sound unreasonable to me.) Thanks for the clarification.

  105. baby-paramedic October 3, 2013 at 5:59 am #

    @hineata – it depends what health district you are in. Some are really proactive. Mine just covers the flu. I would rather the flu than TB (I don’t get the flu shot anyway). Husband hadn’t even had them before I started working in this area. As soon as I realized the incidence rates (one in three pregnant women with hepA for example), I made sure he got all the jabs (I had had them already, having lived overseas). I encouraged my colleagues to demand the same vaccinations, but there is a bit of apathy, and a belief about being bullet-proof.
    But, my first priority is keeping my family safe, and I can’t really do that if I bring them home TB to play with (nits were bad enough!)

  106. Sandra Mort October 8, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    Actually, hot tubs aren’t a hard and fast no no, either. When I was pregnant with my second, I was having severe back pain. I talked to the midwife, we discussed risk/benefits and I decided that I’d spend short periods of time in the hot tub to relieve pain and keep a thermometer handy to check to make sure I wasn’t overheating. I never did and it helped the pain a LOT.