New pregnancy book causes controversy

An American economist has challenged the idea that drinking small amounts of alcohol when pregnant is bad for your baby

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An author of a new pregnancy book has used statistics to challenge doctors’ advice on diet, exercise and alcohol consumption.

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In Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong – and What You Really Need to Know, American economist Emily Oster used her training to analyse pregnancy research and claimed that most of it was vague at best but alarmist at worst.

She wrote the book when she got pregnant. She told The Wall Street Journal: “The limits on drinking while pregnant are based, for the most part, on strong medical research.

“Frequent heavy drinking or binge drinking can cause fetal alcohol syndrome, with serious long-term consequences for your child.

“But all drinking isn’t created equal. When I looked at the data from hundreds of studies, I found, basically, no credible evidence that low levels of drinking (a glass of wine or so a day) have any impact on your baby’s cognitive development.”

A leading organisation supporting people with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, The Arc, has objected to her claims. Peter Berns, its CEO, said: “Why risk it? That’s the question we should be encouraging women to ask themselves when they consider drinking alcohol while pregnant.

“There is no absolute safe amount of alcohol that a woman can drink during pregnancy without risk of harming her unborn baby. FASD is 100% preventable, yet books like this one give the irresponsible impression that the odds of a drink here or there affecting your child aren’t high enough for women to choose to abstain from drinking alcohol while pregnant.”

Emily also challenged the notions that drinking a bit of coffee and gaining too much weight in pregnancy is bad for you.

Although she has garnered no support from the medical profession, Emily said she hopes her book will help pregnant women reach their own conclusions.

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