Expecting Better


I routinely get to talk to Alexis, who is expecting her first child this winter, about all the things one suddenly worries about when a baby is about to arrive. I was sharing some of my favorite books I consulted when I was pregnant and she told me about a new one—or at least a new one to me: Expecting Better. It sounded wonderful, so I asked if she’d share her opinion of it here. 

Baby on the way? A book suggestion…
by Alexis Beaudet Sellers

In the movie Knocked Up, Ben, the dad-to-be played by Seth Rogen, is casually flipping through the book What To Expect When You’re Expecting and declares to Alison, the mom-to-be, “this is basically a giant list of things you can’t do.”

I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit I had the same thought as a Seth Rogen character when, after discovering I was pregnant with my first child, I began Googling “Pregnant + what to do next” and “Pregnant + things to know.”

I quickly learned that many of my favorite foods were advised against (I miss you dearly, turkey sandwich), as well as one of my coveted daily rituals: strong, dark coffee. At first, I took it all to heart and decided to follow the many “rules” of pregnancy. But as the days went on (and the cravings for soft-boiled eggs and deli sandwiches grew stronger) I started to wonder about the “why” behind these rules.

This led to many more frustrating Google searches. Topline reasons are easy to find: listeria, salmonella, toxoplasmosis. (The last required an offshoot Google search of its own.) But there are very few layman references with data from studies to support these directives. In addition to food restrictions, guidelines on weight gain, prenatal testing, and exercise are equally unexplained—or poorly explained—on the web.

So I took all my questions to my next OB appointment. On roughly my eighth follow-up question related to caffeine, my doctor stopped me and asked “Do you like facts? …studies and data and numbers?” “YES. Yes, I do.”

She suggested I read Expecting Better by Emily Oster, an award-winning economist. Also frustrated by the “blanket rules of pregnancy,” Oster decided to sort through hundreds of medical studies to find out which recommendations hold and which are misguided. What she discovered is sometimes startling, often exciting (hiphip for ok’d coffee drinking), and always interesting.

Worth noting: Oster summarizes each chapter/subject into “The Bottom Line” bullet points. So, if you’d rather avoid all of the data behind subjects like the seafood “approval matrix,” you can just skim the chapter recaps.

My bottom line? If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or just like to geek out with numbers, charts, and data, I highly recommend you read this book.

While Oster’s approach may not be for everyone and some experts have questioned pieces of her advice, I think this book would help any mom-to-be take comfort in making choices that are right for her and her baby.


Thank you, Alexis! (Whom you first met her when she shared her shopping tips for souvenirs from Venice.)

I’m curious: those of you who have children, which “rules” did you abide by while pregnant and which did you break? How did you decide? Where did you turn for advice? Any favorite books? 

P.S. My book suggestions for the first year of parenting and my list of essentials for a baby registry.

[Top photo via Hatch Collection; Bottom photo, me and Skyler on her birthday]

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