Expecting Better – By Emily Oster

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Goodreads Synopsis: 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 coffee, but aren’t told why these are forbidden. Rules for prenatal testing are hard and fast—and unexplained. Are these recommendations even correct? Are all of them right for every mom-to-be? In Expecting Better, award-winning economist Emily Oster proves that pregnancy rules are often misguided and sometimes flat-out wrong.

A mom-to-be herself, Oster debunks the myths of pregnancy using her particular mode of critical thinking: economics, the study of how we get what we want. Oster knows that the value of anything—a home, an amniocentesis—is in the eyes of the informed beholder, and like any complicated endeavor, pregnancy is not a one-size-fits-all affair. And yet medicine often treats it as such. Are doctors working from bad data? Are well-meaning friends and family perpetuating false myths and raising unfounded concerns? Oster’s answer is yes, and often.

Pregnant women face an endless stream of decisions, from the casual (Can I eat this?) to the frightening (Is it worth risking a miscarriage to test for genetic defects?). Expecting Better presents the hard facts and real-world advice you’ll never get at the doctor’s office or in the existing literature. Oster’s revelatory work identifies everything from the real effects of caffeine and tobacco to the surprising dangers of gardening.

Any expectant mother knows that the health of her baby is paramount, but she will be less anxious and better able to enjoy a healthy pregnancy if she is informed . . . and can have the occasional glass of wine.

Find on Goodreads and Amazon.

I’ve been slowly going through my libraries shelves for any books relating to pregnancy and parenting, as probably all of you know by now and are probably tired of hearing. So when I found this book I was super interested to hear the opinion of an economist. While Expecting Better was a one star read for me, I’m not sure if I would say: “don’t read this book it’s worthless.”

In the beginning I found the book to be very interesting and enlightening. I liked her chapter on alcohol during pregnancy, as well as the evidence she laid out about deli meats, cats and gardening.  The parts on VBACS, epidurals and episiotomies seemed to me to be biased and less well researched.

But here’s the thing, this book was honestly triggering for me. I was astounded at how much anxiety this woman had that she wasn’t getting some sort of help for. This book is supposed to be about how calm fears, not make someone more anxious. I also ended skipping entirely the chapter on weight gain in pregnancy. The first few paragraphs were very troubling and I saw no reason to read more by someone who is obviously biased and fatphobic.

Let’s be clear, this book is written by a cis straight able-bodied white women who is obviously privileged and had accesses to good health care. This book can give a second opinion on some topics, or it could be completely unhelpful for you. I would say read more reviews of it and use caution.

3 comments

  1. Found this review after googling “Expecting Better Oster Fatphobia.” Thank you for writing this! All my friends recommended Expecting Better to me and I was continuously shocked at her internalized fatphobia that she presents as “scientific fact.” The idea of the book is supposed to be “getting to the bottom” of outdated pregnancy “wisdom” but it was so upsetting to hear blanket statements (unsupported) about how you “need to lose the weight you gain” and “all women have a goal weight” and other awful things.

    • You’re welcome! And thanks for reading! And yeah, it really was just awful to read. We need more pregnancy books that have honest conversations about the fatphobia women experience during pregnancy and postpartum.

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