Even Economists Can't Tell Us What to Expect When We're Expecting
To wit: according to Oster, it's okay to drink a fair bit of caffeinated coffee; exercise won't hurt but probably won't help much either; tests like chorionic villus sampling (CVS) and amniocentesis don't carry quite the risk of miscarriage that you might have assumed; epidurals are generally harmless to the baby but complicate the birth process "and probably makes the recovery a bit harder (on average)." Oddly, her points carry the same degree of vagueness Oster, who loves hard numbers, purports to disdain: "probably," "a bit," and "on average" are not exactly clear guidelines. Still, she doesn't advise against epidurals, though she herself didn't have one. To her, "knowing the evidence doesn't make the decision for you. It just lets you make the decision in an informed way."
The biggest surprise in this book—the one that gave rise to a 1-star review bombing on Amazon.com—is that Oster, reviewing the studies on alcohol during pregnancy, finds current recommendations from organizations like ACOG far too cautious. She writes:
In moderation, pregnant women should feel comfortable with both alcohol and caffeine. For alcohol, this means up to 1 drink a day in the second and third trimesters, and a couple of drinks a week in the first. In fact, for the most part studies fail to show negative effects on babies even at levels higher than this.
Again, we note the vagueness of a phrase like "for the most part." Does it indicate, for example, that some studies do show negative effects of alcohol on babies? Some do: Oster finds them "very deeply flawed." Naturally. It's striking that Oster does not appear to have consulted with a single medical professional in making such a claim—perhaps because none wanted to be cited as supporting a view no official medical body endorses.
Anyone who has ever asked older women about their pregnancy and birth experiences knows that doctor's recommendations have changed drastically over the years, and that they were occasionally tragically off base: Doctors used to advise women to drastically curtail their weight gain and smoking and drinking were not off limits. My petite grandmother was advised by her physician to continue smoking so that she'd have a smaller baby.
To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.