New Book by Economist Debunks Common Pregnancy Myths


While at work recently, I was reciting the laundry list of “things” I have been told to stay away from during my pregnancy.

“So, I can’t have sushi, I can’t have queso. No cleaning the litter box – not that I mind that! I have to heat up my hot dogs until they are steaming. I could go on.”

My coworker responded, perplexed: “But why? Do they tell you why? Thirty years ago when I had my children, we didn’t have rules like this! And no ultrasounds, either. Babies were always a surprise!”

Pregnancy care has progressed leaps and bounds in the past 30 years. From genetic testing to 3D ultrasounds to blogs, books, and forums dedicated to discussing the nuances of pregnancy, it’s safe to say we now know more about pregnancy than ever before. However, do we really know how much of the information pregnant women receive daily is accurate and medically based, and how much of it stems from old wives tales, pregnancy myths, and outdated studies?

Emily Oster, award-winning economist, encourages women – pregnant or not – to do their research when it comes to medical studies so they can determine which actually apply to their own bodies. “[Realize] some studies are much, much better than others…no single study is going to be enough to close the book on any issue,” Emily said in a recent Slate blog.

“[Realize] some studies are much, much better than others…no single study is going to be enough to close the book on any issue,”

Emily Oster set out to help women have more relaxed and informed pregnancies with her new book, Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong – and What you Really Need to Know. She took a hard look at various medical studies that used randomized trials, as well as up-to-date advice, to provide an informative look at the pregnancy advice we’ve been hearing for years. Here are a few of the highlights from her new book.


Image via Flickr/sneakerdog

Litter boxes are OK – During her research, Emily Oster found no evidence to suggest women who clean cat litter boxes or have cats are more likely to develop toxoplasmosis (an infection that has been known to cause birth defects) than women who don’t. (Shhh, don’t tell my husband!) However, Oster does warn outdoor gardening is more strongly linked to the parasitic infection because more animals poop in the garden.

Image via Flickr/Ran Yaniv Hartstein

Drinking water can prevent many unnecessary inductions – Not only are you eating for two, you’re drinking for two as well! Water helps flush your system, keep your internal temperature cooler, and helps deliver nutrients to baby. On the other hand, dehydration can cause painful contractions and early labor.

Woman stepping on scales and weighing herself

Gaining too little weight is more harmful than gaining too much weight – Many women worry about gaining more than their fair share of weight during pregnancy, but Oster found they should be worrying about too little weight gain. Women who are underweight before pregnancy, or fail to gain the recommended amount of weight, could risk delivering a preterm infant or a baby with a critically low birth weight.

Image via Flickr/swanksalot

Limiting laboring moms to taking in only ice chips is an antiquated practice – The basis of this advice came from a 1946 research study published in Gynecology, which claimed eating or drinking could be dangerous for women who had to be placed under general anesthesia for a c-section. (Check the date and you’ll realize we’re a long way from 1946!) Emily Oster suggests that women should have a choice, and drinking small amounts of liquid, especially drinks with electrolytes (like Gatorade) can actually help a mom-to-be during labor.

Do you follow all the “pregnancy rules”, or do you research the advice to find out what’s best for you?

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New Book by Economist Debunks Common Pregnancy Myths

Amanda is a social media manager for a health care organization by day, a blogger and freelance writer by night, and a celebrity news junkie all the time! She's also mom to an amazing 2 year-old boy and wife to a great guy who indulges all her celebrity gossip (and sometimes tries to scoop her!) Amanda loves coffee, fashion, nail polish, cats, and Tim Gunn (not always in that order.) For more celebrity gossip, fashion, beauty and DIY, visit Amanda's blog, It's Blogworthy. ... More

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  1. nichole says:

    i did a lot of research my first time around. and im lucky also to have a doc who doesnt panic over every small thing, and is often times truthfull on some of these ideas. like the litter box thing, while there is a small chance of you getting it, if youve been changing litter boxes before, youve probably already gotten the disease, and now have antiboties for you and baby. they can do a test on your blood, to find out if you have them or not, but its eaiser for docs to just say, dont do it, and lets face it, its way more fun to go with that one, 9ish months not having to do so 🙂 ill take that lol. but i didnt panic if i had to do it. i just made sure i didnt touch the stuff i was scooping, adn washed my hands right after.

  2. Emily says:

    I heard that it was the cat stools you have to avoid that has the disease. Just as she states that you should not garden while pregnant also.

  3. Member says:

    I’ve had many, sometimes heated discussions, about a lot of these myths (especially the kitty litter one). What is amazing to me is that doctor’s actually perpetuate many of these and so it becomes harder to convince others, or just simply defend yourself and your choices, especially when I am saying “my midwife told me” and they think because it came from their MD/DO OBGYN that they are automatically correct.

  4. Phammom says:

    I research. But this was helpful.


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