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Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong - and What You Really Need to Know
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Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong - and What You Really Need to Know

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  7,773 ratings  ·  844 reviews
What to Expect When You're Expecting meets Freakonomics: an award-winning economist disproves standard recommendations about pregnancy to empower women while they're expecting.

Pregnancy—unquestionably one of the most profound, meaningful experiences of adulthood—can reduce otherwise intelligent women to, well, babies. We’re told to avoid cold cuts, sushi, alcohol, and coff
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 20th 2013 by Penguin Press (first published August 1st 2013)
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Lindsay Sutton Great question! The author is an economist, but she doesn't make recommendations as an economist. In fact, she doesn't make recommendations at all.…moreGreat question! The author is an economist, but she doesn't make recommendations as an economist. In fact, she doesn't make recommendations at all. Her background as an economist professor has given her the critical thinking and research tools to #1 find the studies that talk explicitly about pregnancy issues #2 deduce which studies are profitable and how and #3 offer data from the studies, which empowers mothers to make the best decisions for them.

She explains more about her approach and purpose in the introduction, so if you're worried, check out the introduction first before diving in. I think it will help you make your best decision about whether to read it or not.

Personally, I've found the data very useful, and I appreciate how the author encourages my autonomy and gives me the tools to make smart, informed decisions for myself. Many of my decisions will make conventional advice, but where my decisions stray from convention, it's because of how take in data from scientific research.

Good luck!(less)
Linda All of the studies she mentions are in an appendix in the back of the book. I recommend finding the book at the library if you'd like to know more!

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Jaclyn Day
Aug 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
There is so much hubbub about this book right now. I was really interested to read it and before I started it, I read a few news articles and some of the dozens of 1-star reviews on Amazon. It turns out people are really upset with Oster primarily for the chapter on drinking alcohol during pregnancy. There are other reasons people are poo-pooing the book too—like the fact that she hardly interviewed any medical professionals about the topics she covered and instead relied almost entirely on her ...more
Aug 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: pregnancy
After 2 moderately complicated pregnancies and multiple thrown pregnancy books, I wanted to like this. I was attracted to the concept of applying decision-making principles to pregnancy. It's a great concept, and not enough pregnancy literature emphasizes the risk-and-tradeoff model (or if it does, presents inaccurate risks). The book has already gotten a backlash for daring to suggest that the zero-tolerance approach to alcohol in pregnancy is not backed by evidence, prompting 1-star Amazon rev ...more
Apr 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
After becoming pregnant, I quickly learned that there are two types of pregnant women (ok, there are a lot more than this, but keep reading). The first type says "Show me proof that this will NOT hurt my baby, and I will do it." The second type says "Show me proof that this WILL hurt my baby, and I won't do it". It turns out, I am the second type, which causes many of my friends and coworkers to be absolutely horrified at some of my behaviors (most of which involve ingesting things). Thankfully, ...more
Kathryn Lucas
Oct 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: pregnant women, women trying to conceive, partners of those women
Recommended to Kathryn by: NPR
I'm now on my second reading of this book. It's so jam-packed with enlightening facts and information that every expecting couple should know, that I felt I should read it again, just so I can retain it all a bit better.

First, let me address the alcohol issue, since there's been a lot of backlash against this book (online and on talk radio) for suggesting that drinking a bit of alcohol during pregnancy is okay. It is my opinion that the anti-FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) crusaders out t
Sep 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
As heard on Planet Money.

The New York Times appears to also have a review, but they seem to have completely missed the point.


10/20/13: I'm only partway through this book, but I cannot contain my exuberance. This is finally the book that I had just assumed other pregnancy books would be, but was sadly disappointed to discover they were not.

For a given risk factor (such as caffeine, alcohol, or tobacco), she lays out the studies that have been done, highlights the strengths and weaknesses of ea
Aug 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A little background: I'm 29 weeks pregnant for the fourth time, so I probably have more interest in pregnancy than your average Joe.

When economist Emily Oster decided to have a baby, she wanted to make informed decisions and assumed the medical community would offer her the statistic-based information she is used to finding. Instead, she received a lot of "probably fine" and "low-risk" vagueness. Since her (and her husband's) profession is to find and analyze research, she started reading studie
Jun 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I picked this one up after reading several reviews describe it as 'if you read a single book about pregnancy, this is the one you should read.' And I completely agree. THERE ARE SOURCES! I swear, it never occurred to me that the vast majority of pregnancy books would cite no sources whatsoever. I don't care if you're a doctor. Lots of people call themselves doctors and I'm not going to take their advice. On top of that, the books often say things like "Ask your doctor." I'm reading pregnancy boo ...more
Jun 23, 2014 rated it liked it
As a physician, I was curious about this book, after a few of my friends read it during their pregnancy. First of all, I found much of the data that she presented was quite interesting, and I learned some of the more specific aspects of prenatal care.

However, more importantly, her tone smacks of privilege, and she falls prey to many of the biases she criticizes doctors and ACOG for. She skews how she discusses the research based on whether or not she agrees with it. She appears to be critical o
Nov 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: women, parenting
Loved it! If you are the type of person that likes data and statistics, and wants to know WHY all these conflicting "rules" about pregnancy exist, this book is for you. I wish I had read it at the beginning of my pregnancy rather than in month 9 -- but it wasn't out yet!

Oster's big idea is that women should be trusted with specific, accurate data so they can make their own decisions based on the risks vs. rewards.

For example, perhaps you have seen all the lists of foods you're supposed to avoi
May 25, 2017 rated it did not like it
I'm astounded that an economist who is not a maternal-newborn health care professional decided that being pregnant, reading an obstetrics textbook and reviewing some studies makes her qualified to decide she can tell women to ignore reputable health organizations' guidelines.

For instance, the researchers, physicians, midwives, and other health care professionals are reviewing the SAME research information as Emily Oster is, and have concluded that there is not enough quality or conclusive evide
Aug 22, 2013 rated it did not like it
I like statistics. I read research articles for enjoyment - yeah I'm strange. So I thought this would be a really good pregnancy book. I was wrong. The author says she wrote it to help thinking women make their own informed choices but instead she is just telling them what to choose. Both in her tone and by the studies she chooses to highlight or ignore.

Skip this book - If you want to make your own informed choices - do the research yourself. If you want someone to tell you what to do based on
Sep 28, 2013 rated it did not like it
I had high hopes for this read but all is does is ask unanswered questions. If you want to know absolutely that a glass or 2 of wine won't hurt your baby, don't expect your doctor to tell you that they tested this on pregnant women, just don't drink it.
Jan 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book really seems to have polarized a lot of people. Topics like kids seem to do this. First off, I'm certainly not the target audience for this book. I'm a single guy with no kids in his mid thirties. I doubt I'll ever have kids. But I do love reading about pop science, and normally books of this genre are right in my wheelhouse.

They usually come in one of three flavors, a scientist or pop-science writer explaining some topic in an accessible manor, a crackpot author explaining their theor
Sep 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
Emily Oster read the same "10,000 ways you can totally f- up your baby" pregnancy manuals I did and had the same level of disgust. Why was the doctor so obsessed with my weight gain? Why was the nurse telling me that I should rush to the hospital the second my water broke? Was all of this really necessary? Like me, she also wasn't comfortable with the extreme backlash response of home-birth in an inflatable bathtub (which turns out to be not an option where I live anyway). But Emily Oster has su ...more
Maryann J-D
Sep 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. I've been half-consuming all sorts of pregnancy books lately, and this was the most satisfying. I previously read Origins, which had somewhat of a similar premise, but instead of calming me down with information, it just threw a bunch of studies at me and had me convinced that, when we do get pregnant, I need to just cloister myself until the child is born. (And even then?!)

In contrast, Emily Oster lays out all the data, with some handy visual aids (like the mercury to omega-3s f
Richard Carozza
Apr 01, 2017 rated it did not like it
The author of this book is committing child endangerment. I did my graduate studies on fetal alcohol syndrome, my family has members afflicted with fetal alcohol syndrome, and between graduate and medical school I believe I have the authority to contradict the author and state unequivocally that no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy. None. Not during the first trimester, not during the second, not during the third. The effects of alcohol on babies tear apart families and ruin lives. I'm ...more
Oct 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
4.5 Amazingly Informative Stars
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the 2nd pregnancy book that I’ve read.
I wanted to read this one in particular because 1) it was one of my good friend’s best pregnancy book recommendations (thank you Brandi!) and 2) the author is an Economist and as an Econ major I was intrigued to see how she would apply an Economist’s way of thinking to the topic of pregnancy.

I really liked this book. It’s different. The author lays out all the data, statistics and research and gives you a better understanding of why there is so much
So here's the thing: pregnancy is terrifying. Like, going into it you kind of know that things are going to be different, but nothing really prepares you for the amount of anxiety you will experience. Don't eat this! Don't do this! Don't touch that! You are constantly bombarded with rules, some of which seem completely arbitrary. And, well, some of the are. This book was really refreshing in that it wades through a lot of the misinformation out there. Facts, facts, beautiful facts! Data! Evidenc ...more
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A great guide to understanding myths vs science. Very conversational language - highly recommend for those newly pregnant - especially those like me who tend to be anxious.
May 29, 2014 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
I did not finish this book, because although interesting, I found the author's personal bias to be too distracting to take her research seriously. I stopped reading once I got to the chapter about smoking during pregnancy. But let me back up -- the author is very open about the fact that this research began when she became pregnant out of a desire to learn more about WHY she should not take some risks and HOW to calculate those risks. She is open about the fact that she likes caffeine and alcoho ...more
Caroline Niziol
Aug 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
If you asked me a couple of weeks ago if I was interested in reading Yet Another Pregnancy Book, I would have laughed. Hardly! I read a couple early on, then turned to the almighty Google when I had questions or curiosities. Then about a week ago, my mom clipped an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal called "Take Back Your Pregnancy." Well, I took the bait. Emily Oster's article intrigued me. Definitely one for any subsequent pregnancy, I thought!

Then the furor struck on the Interwebs. Because
Margaret Heller
Sep 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: babiesomg
This book spawned a huge amount of controversy due to the WSJ article that was played as "go ahead and drink all you like". That is, of course, not really what she's saying here. This is a combo of medical literature metaanalysis and pregnancy memoir--now if you've read any of the literature and are pretty smart, most of what she says should be no surprise. The message is throughout that there are levels of risks and of unknowns, and you have to read the numbers and decide with what you are comf ...more
Dec 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The perfect book for expecting parents. Read this book, then have some sushi and a half glass of wine, and chill out; your baby will be fine. And if s/he isn't... it wasn't the sushi, 4 ounces of wine, or anything else you did wrong.
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Pregnancy and labour process are all about knowing the the relevant facts and choosing the option that works for you. Most of the time there's no one unique best answer.
Athira (Reading on a Rainy Day)
Ever since Aarti and
Personally, if I heard that something was bad for the baby, I didn't care too much to question it. Not because I was lazy or too frightened by everything that could go wrong, but rather the sacrifice was just for 9 months - that's doable. Plus, I barely cared much about almost everything that was considered a big no-no, the sole exception being tuna. Oh boy, what I wouldn't do for a tuna sandwich right now!

But Oster is obviously completely my opposite, but thanks to her, I l
Feb 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
I like the proposition - people should have the option to learn more about the data and make informed decisions that also account for their own personal priorities. I'm a data freak myself, and while I'm skeptical of pop science books I was hopeful that this would be more sophisticated. What I really wanted from this book was a thoughtful and critical (but still accessible) literature review, especially focusing on meta-analyses of data and clearly explaining factors of the methodology as they r ...more
Okay, so I am putting this in my “reference” section because I have read this book all wrong. My fault! We procrastinated a while to buy it, and then I procrastinated a while to read it. Then I did read it! But since it’s written chronologically through pregnancy and birth, I figured, “Better just read the parts still ahead of me, right? What if I need to know about these things tomorrow??” because that is how you start to think. So that is what I have done.

(Presently relevant chapter: “I’m Goin
Gina Grone
Sep 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What this book is:
--An excellent surface-level view of the data that is available to help pregnant women make decisions about their pregnancy
--An unbiased interpretation of data that tries really hard to inform rather than advise
--A trustworthy collection of ideas that gets me thinking and keeps me from going crazy with the overabundance of "knowledge" available online

What this book isn't:
--The one and only book a pregnant woman should read before making big decisions. I see it as more of an int
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
This was given to me by a dear friend the moment she knew that I was expecting. I couldn’t put it down. My husband has been traipsing around with the “What to Expect When Expecting”, and reading all of the things I cannot do and cannot have because they are bad for baby or they are going to kill baby. My combative attitude towards non evidence based suggestions drives me up the wall and makes me want to do the opposite of what I am being told. If you can’t give me solid data, I can’t take your “ ...more
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Emily Oster is an American economist and bestselling author. After receiving a B.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard in 2002 and 2006 respectively, Oster taught at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She later moved to Brown University, where she holds the rank of Professor of Economics. Her research interests span from development economics and health economics to research design and experi ...more
“...I'm not crazy about the implication that pregnant women are incapable of deciding for themselves- that you have to manipulate our belief so we do the right thing. That feels, again, like pregnant women are not given any more credit than children would be in making important decisions.” 10 likes
“So why did my conclusions differ from theirs? At least two reasons. One is overinterpretation of flawed studies. But the bigger thing, I think, is the concern (which was expressed to me over and over again by doctors) is that if you tell people they can have a glass of wine, they'll have 3 (or one giant "bowl-o-wine"). Even if one isn't a problem, three are. Better to say you can't have any, as that rule is easy to understand.” 3 likes
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