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Skeptical Salon: Expecting Better by Emily Oster

  • Jan 23, 2014 · 7:30 PM
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New years bring new resolutions and new aspects of Skepticism to explore! Our first Salon of 2014 will feature a book that questions some of the "conventional" wisdom and old wives' tales about pregnancy from the point of view and methodology of...an economist? Well, why not an economist?

The synopsis from Amazon:

What to Expect When You're Expecting meets Freakonomics: an award-winning economist disproves standard recommendations about pregnancy to empower women while they're expecting

Pregnancy—unquestionably one of the most pro­found, meaningful experiences of adulthood—can reduce otherwise intelligent women to, well, babies. We’re told to avoid cold cuts, sushi, alcohol, and coffee, but aren’t told why these are forbidden. Rules for prenatal testing are hard and fast—and unexplained. Are these recommendations even correct? Are all of them right for every mom-to-be? In Expecting Better, award-winning economist Emily Oster proves that pregnancy rules are often misguided and sometimes flat-out wrong.

A mom-to-be herself, Oster debunks the myths of pregnancy using her particular mode of critical thinking: economics, the study of how we get what we want. Oster knows that the value of anything—a home, an amniocentesis—is in the eyes of the informed beholder, and like any compli­cated endeavor, pregnancy is not a one-size-fits-all affair. And yet medicine often treats it as such. Are doctors working from bad data? Are well-meaning friends and family perpetuating false myths and raising unfounded concerns? Oster’s answer is yes, and often.

Pregnant women face an endless stream of decisions, from the casual (Can I eat this?) to the frightening (Is it worth risking a miscarriage to test for genetic defects?). Expecting Better presents the hard facts and real-world advice you’ll never get at the doctor’s office or in the existing literature. Oster’s revelatory work identifies everything from the real effects of caffeine and tobacco to the surprising dangers of gardening.

Any expectant mother knows that the health of her baby is paramount, but she will be less anxious and better able to enjoy a healthy pregnancy if she is informed . . . and can have the occasional glass of wine.

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  • Mitch P.

    An interesting, stimulating discussion. I'm thoroughly enjoying this group.

    January 24, 2014

  • Gary L.

    I wish it weren't hard to say something. After all, I don't have a huge vocabulary, or all that much to teach the world, but I am special.

    January 22, 2014

  • Sarah

    Really wish I could go, but I have to work very early the next day. Have fun!

    January 20, 2014

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