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No Sushi if you're Pregnant

For pregnant women, a trip to the pregnancy-advice section of their local bookstore can be an overwhelming experience. The shelves are stacked high with suggestions and prohibitions for expectant mothers in a nine-month period when everything they do seems to matter. Using hair dye, drinking alcohol or coffee, gardening without gloves, or riding a bike are just a few no-nos on a long list. If women slip up, the consequences seem immense. “You’ve got nine months of meals and snacks with which to give your baby the best possible start in life,” the authors of What to Expect When You’re Expecting write. “Try to make them count. As you raise fork to mouth, consider: ‘Is this a bite that will benefit my baby?’”

The problem is, pregnancy-advice books often contradict each other. (Is fish a pregnancy superfood, or a mercury-laced toxin? Is peanut butter a delicious, protein-filled snack or a guarantee that your child will have peanut allergies?) Many aren’t written by experts—What to Expect When You’re Expecting, the so-called “pregnancy bible,” was authored by a mother-daughter team of a journalist, an advertising copywriter, and a nurse—and their recommendations can drift from the stridently proscriptive to the completely irrelevant.  “If drinking two cups of coffee a day increases the likelihood of miscarriage, why would you mess with one?” demand the authors of Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven. “IT’S JUST NOT WORTH IT. GET OVER YOUR ADDICTION.” Another book, The Complete Organic Pregnancy, moves from advice about caffeine intake to a sales pitch for fair-trade coffee, telling mothers-to-be that if they must drink coffee, “try whenever possible to buy fair-trade, shade-grown, and/or organic."

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