CHICAGO — University of Chicago economist Emily Oster approached her pregnancy much like she does her job, challenging assumptions and evaluating data on what she could safely eat and drink during the nine-month gestational period.
She put her findings in a book — and provoked anger among doctors and patients who vehemently disagree with her conclusion that it is harmless to drink a limited amount of alcohol during pregnancy.
Oster, 33, encourages women to decide what is best for themselves, but her “bottom line” recommendation allows for one or two alcoholic drinks per week during the first trimester, and one drink daily during the rest of pregnancy.
Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong — and What You Really Need to Know contradicts the U.S. surgeon general’s position that no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy. The book has also angered families affected by fetal alcohol spectrum disorders or FASD, an umbrella term for birth defects caused by a mother’s alcohol consumption during pregnancy, such as brain damage.
The book “has caused quite a firestorm,” said Dr. Ira Chasnoff, a Chicago pediatrician who specializes in children prenatally exposed to alcohol and other drugs. “The difficulty you have is someone who has no clinical understanding, who is relying on studies and statistics without understanding what lies behind the statistics.”
See Wednesday’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for more about this contentious subject.