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Lifestyle

August 20, 2013

New pregnancy book: Coffee, wine and sushi OK

(Continued)

AP: Do you anticipate blowback from women and doctors because you’re an economist and not a medical professional who helps manage pregnancies?

Oster: For sure but I certainly do not envision women reading this book and saying, ‘Oh, like, I can deliver my own baby now, right?’ I think that there’s a real sense in which pregnancy should be something that you do with your doctor, but I think that for a lot of women the time you have with your doctors is limited and it can be difficult to get all of the answers to your questions.

AP: Are most pregnant women ill-informed? Are doctors and other pregnancy professionals lax in keeping up to date on research that might lead to more specific recommendations?

Oster: I think we see sometimes where practice lags behind recommendations. Not all practitioners, obviously. As an example, in the case of prenatal testing, even though more recent recommendations don’t favor the 35-year-old cutoff as much, that’s still a highly practiced thing, so I think there’s a sense in which there is some slow creep of knowledge. I actually think pregnant women are really well-informed but I think that there’s a tremendous amount of confusing and conflicting information out there. You could read every pregnancy book and every pregnancy website and come away thinking on some topics I have no idea what the real facts are.

AP: Isn’t that what the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is for? They have committees to vet research and keep up to date.

Oster: Yeah, it is, and actually in a lot of cases I found that women would do quite well to read the ACOG opinions. There were a few cases where I thought perhaps they were overly cautious but actually there’s a lot of settings in which I think that would be a great place to start. There are certainly times in which practice hasn’t really caught up to those opinions. A lot of the choices that women need to make in pregnancy, it’s sort of not possible for ACOG to tell them the right answer. For example, if you think about prenatal testing you’re thinking about a case in which you’re trading off more information about the baby for some small risk of miscarriage. Ultimately that needs to be combined with women’s own ideas about how they feel about a miscarriage versus how they feel about a developmentally delayed child and that’s not something a recommendation can tell you. That’s something you need to learn to think through on your own.

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