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Bad Science

Before I got pregnant, I assumed the hardest part about being pregnant would be the morning sickness, the back pain, the fatigue, etc. You know, the pregnancy part. Not so. For me–who admittedly has been blessed with no morning sickness, no back pain, and little fatigue during this pregnancy–the hardest part has been sorting through the information, misinformation, studies, and critiques of studies over just about every aspect of pregnancy you can imagine. If you have any tendencies towards scientific reductionism when it comes to making decisions, stay away from pregnancy!

A few dillies to consider:

1. Will an epidural delay my labor or increase my odds of having a C-section? Well, depending on what study you read, the answer is one of the following:

a. Not if you wait until you are at least 5 cm. dialated.

b. Yes on both counts.

c. No. Even if you have the epidural in early labor.

2. Is amniocentesis risky?

a. Yes, there is a slight risk of miscarriage (about .5-1%) following amniocentesis.

b. No, the miscarriage rate following amniocentesis is about the same as for any other second trimester woman: correlation is not causation.

c. No, women who have amniocentesis are slightly less likely to miscarry than those who do not have the procedure. (presumably because having amniocentesis is an index of receiving better prenantal care)

3. Will breastfeeding increase my infant’s IQ?

A. Yes. But that’s because of the DHA in breastmik, and new formulas include it. So subject to change.

B. Yes. And the DHA in formulas is not as good as the DHA in breastmilk.

C. No. Mothers who breastfeed are simply more likely to be better educated than mothers who do not, that education correlates to higher IQs, and IQ is inherited. (Link to study–props to Matt for guessing that one!)

If you think books–even good ones like the Mayo guide are a big help sorting through this morass–you’d be wrong. I’ve noticed two trends in all printed material about pregnancy and delivery. The first is to shoot towards the conservative, law-suit avoiding extreme. For example. If a study shows that women who consume over 300 mg of caffeine a day (the equivalent of six cups of coffee) are slightly more likely to deliver a baby with low birthweight, you would expect the literature to advise “minimal caffeine intake.” You’d be wrong. The literature instead states “it’s best, of course, to avoid caffeine entirely.” Well, to heck with that! I’m enjoying a lovely cup of mango Ceylon tea (loose leaf, with caffeine) even as I type.

And the second trend is to present totally contradictory, unhelpful information and then attach the tagline “Only you and your doctor know what’s best for your pregnancy and your baby” at the end. What a cop out! If that’s the case, why did I pay $24.99 for a stupid book to tell me what’s best for me and my baby?

Stay tuned for my tirade about whose advice to follow regarding sleep, pacifiers, schedules, introducing solids, etc.

One Response to “Bad Science”

  1. harriette says:

    Jessica, you should know about “publish or perish” . My first child I followed all the doctor’s rules and had an easy delivery. I read Dr. Spock, followed all the rules and had a fussy, colic-y baby and was a nervous wreck. With Ian, I didn’t pay much attention to the doctor, took Lamaze classes every though I was going to have a caeserian , had an easy birth. Fed him cold milk in boiled bottles, rice cereal when he was 2 weeks old, took him to school with me at 10 days and look how he turned out . My only advice is to relax and enjoy. It’ll make the delivery easier and raising the kid easier. But I think you already know that.

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