Megnut

How I ate while pregnant

Rational analysis doesn’t hold sway with the pregnancy police, says Steven Shaw in a great Op-Ed in the New York Times about sushi consumption and pregnancy. His point? The prohibition against raw fish during pregnancy is unnecessary. I ate sushi while I was pregnant, and lots of other things I wasn't supposed to eat, and I'm happy to see someone ask some reasonable questions about what women consume while pregnant since the current thinking seems excessive to me. Shaw writes:

"Why take any risk?" they ask. The medical establishment and the culture at large have twisted logic around to the point where any risk, no matter how infinitesimal, is too much. So powerful is this Puritanical impulse that, once a health objection is raised, however irrational the recommended behavior, it’s considered irresponsible to behave any other way.

And let me tell you, the guilt that seeps in from the "Puritanical impulse" is powerful. Then there's the "It's only nine months" argument, like it's not that long to sacrifice. Actually, it's like nine and a half, (or nearly ten if your baby is late like mine!) and that's a very long time to be in a worked-up state about what you can and cannot ingest. Believe me when I tell you the pressure to ensure everything you eat isn't going to kill or permanently damage your unborn child is intense. I quietly struggled with that as I wrote about things for this site, especially when I wrote about changing recommendations for fish consumption (tuna good, tuna bad, tuna OK) and chemicals in food and salmonella in lettuce and peanut butter.

After a couple months, I came up with an approach that worked really well for me for the duration of my pregnancy. (Usual disclaimer applies: I am not a doctor, and if you're pregnant you should speak with yours before following any of my advice, etc.) First, I did a lot of research about every prohibition. What was the reason for it? And what was the risk and the consequence? I found that you could divvy up the guidelines into two groups: illnesses that crossed the placental barrier and affected the fetus, and those that didn't. To put it another way, would eating something make me any sicker because I was pregnant than if I weren't? Or would the outcome be the same?

Recommendations say to avoid deli meat or raw milk products because they can become contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that causes listeriosis. Listeriosis is serious, though very rare -- 2,500 cases a year in the US, but something like 80% occur in pregnant women. It can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or premature delivery in pregnant women. So by my reckoning, any food that could cause listeriosis was on my avoidance list because the consequences were severe. So I skipped deli meat and raw cheese and most soft cheese and NYC street hot dogs during the course of my pregnancy.

But sushi and shellfish and many other prohibited items only make you sick the same way they make you sick if you're not pregnant. Yes, you might have a lowered immunity, so you might be more likely to get ill, but the result won't directly impact the fetus. If you get a parasite from sushi, the baby won't get a parasite. And so that was my guiding rule. I ate raw oysters several times (much to many people's horror) and suffered no ill effects. Of course, I ate them in season, from reputable restaurants, and I didn't push my luck by doing it weekly.

I stopped eating soft-boiled eggs every day simply because the odds of getting salmonella increased with every day I had an undercooked egg. But I did occasionally have undercooked eggs. And I ate medium-rare meat. But I ate it, again, at reputable restaurants where I could be confident of its quality, or I prepared it myself. Getting salmonella would suck, but it runs its course in a few days. Worst case, you take antibiotics and you get better.

With all my "reckless" pregnancy eating, I did get sick once. The culprit? Chicken enchiladas from the local Mexican place. That was in my sixth month, and I didn't eat chicken enchiladas again. But I never once heard warnings to keep away from chicken enchiladas. Every pregnant woman needs to find her own balance, and it's not going to be the same for each. For me the anxiety of worrying about what I ate was worse than actually eating it. Early on, I was so worked up I wasn't gaining enough weight. And that's a much worse consequence for a developing fetus.

Why take any risk? Because life is risky. Are you going to stop driving because you're pregnant? Are you going to stop leaving the house? I found my balance between enjoying food and tolerating risk, and it included the occasional Wellfleet on the half-shell. It's easy to get overwhelmed by all the recommendations, and to live in fear of every bite of food you put into your mouth. But that makes for a very stressful, anxious, long nine (plus) months. And that certainly isn't good for the fetus.

There are 45 responses

Good for you, and congratulations!

Glad that someone is taking a rational, educated stand. :)

Funny, isn't it, how the diet of pregnant women has become some sort of public concern - but once the kid is born, you can feed him all the crap you want (HFCS soda, etc.) and no one says a peep.

Nick: One more way to make pregnant women feel bad. The stories I've heard of women who were buying a six-pack of beer as part of their regular grocery shopping getting told off by cashiers who didn't think to wonder if maybe, just maybe, the woman had a non-pregnant spouse at home who might enjoy a beer are fascinating. Or a friend of mine, who went to a hotel bar while traveling with her husband while very hugely pregnant and got a cranberry juice served in a martini glasses and a hundred nasty looks. People are absurd.

"Actually, it's like nine and a half, (or nearly ten if your baby is late like mine!)"

It also depends on whether you're trying to get pregnant -- after all, women generally find out they're pregnant 1-3 months into the pregnancy, so count up all the months of trying, and also add in the number of kids you want to have, and also what foods should be avoided while nursing. It adds up to a lot more than 9 months, that's for sure.

For me, that was 6 months of trying, 9 months of pregnant, for a total of 15 months for this baby. Also, I'm still avoiding high mercury fish while my 9 month old is nursing. (At least until age one, hopefully longer.)

For the people who want to have several kids, that's probably five years of not eating some of the food they enjoy.

What a great post. I agree completely with your approach; it is very close to my own. When I was pregnant in 2005-2006, I also ate sushi occasionally, and indulged in steak that was cooked medium-rare. In a strange parallel, the only time I ever got truly sick (as in not just a case of morning - or in my case, all-day - sickness) was after eating some chicken tacos from Chipotle! (I'm not maligning Chipotle btw, and have eaten those same tacos several times since!) I even indulged in a sip of wine every now and then (after my first trimester was over). This was all with the blessing of my very wonderful OB/GYN.

I do remember avoiding soft cheeses like brie. After I had my baby, I found out that the soft cheese sold in the US isn't really raw, like it is in Europe (seems everything has to be pasteurized here, whether we like it or not), and it would have been safe for me to eat brie or whatever else I was craving. Darn it.

What I've found is that so many of the foods to avoid are really foods that have become unsafe because of a game of telephone between pregnant women or people who like to give advice to pregnant women.

For example, the original recommendation of "don't eat unpasteurized cheese" turns into "don't eat soft cheese" and then turns into "cheese is bad for you."

The chapter on foods to avoid in "What to Expect When You're Expecting" is probably one of the worst things to read while pregnant. If it was up to the authors, you'd never dine out during the entire pregnancy.

Actually, soft cheeses, even when not raw, seem to be prohibited. But I could never seem to find out exactly why, though listeriosis was mentioned. And alcohol, I forgot to mention that. I didn't drink anything at all my first trimester, but after that I indulged in the occasional glass of wine. Happily, no one chewed me out while I did so.

And Sarah, excellent point. You make me realize that I didn't pay attention to the issue nearly as much while we were trying! I just focused on taking my pre-natal vitamin every day and figured I was good. Clearly I was a negligent pregnant woman! :)

I would avoid NYC street hotdogs anyway.

I've been reading a lot about this topic, and have been wowed by the near-hysteria accompanying (or underlying) much of the don't-eat-X/don't-drink-Y advice.

I recently scrolled through many hundreds of comments on this topic on a wine-focused site, and my jaw dropped at the number of commenters who suggested that a woman who had *any* alcohol during her pregnancy was putting her child at risk for fetal alcohol syndrome; that a woman who consumed any alcohol was selfish or had no self-control; or perhaps worse, that women who "insisted" on having a drink during pregnancy were alcoholics and not fit to be mothers in the first place. I was shocked and saddened by the vitriol and gross exaggeration.

I have several friends who conceived and raised healthy children while living in France and Italy, women who would never have considered abstaining entirely from a glass of wine during their pregnancies. The wine was consumed with a meal, was not the only liquid they drank (I'm sure they had their eight glasses of water a day and then some), and neither they nor their children suffered any ill effects.

Thanks, Meg, for contributing to the chorus of moderation!

Interesting but completely rational, which is refreshing.

Also coincidentally today's NYT discusses elevated mercury levels in people who eat alot fo sushi.

"...and that's a very long time to be in a worked-up state about what you can and cannot ingest."

...I don't mean this as a flame in anyway, but I do question this statement. I mean, were you *really*, honestly, in a worked up state for the preganncy over this? For nine months straight? Don't get me wrong, I totally agree with your argument -- I just can't buy this statement that thinking about food during pregnancy got you in constant state of being worked up.

My wife and I, and many friends, have just had their first kids. I saw a lot of women talk about this, consider this when ordering food, etc. But really, I never saw anyone, nor did anyone we know, talk about how detrimental just considering it all was on their stress levels. It seems like you're really using this as an excuse to frame an argument.

At any rate, congradulations, I do mean that sincerely.

I just can't buy this statement that thinking about food during pregnancy got you in constant state of being worked up.

I'm not sure how to respond to this except to say that yes, I found it very stressful to always be worrying about what I ate and whether it was safe for my unborn child. In no way am I using this "as an excuse to frame an argument."

It wasn't just "considering" the food rules that was stressful, it was following them, always worrying about whether what I'd eaten was contaminated with something like E. coli, or whether the tuna I'd eaten for lunch (because it has Omega-3, which is good for the developing fetus) had dangerous levels of mercury (which is bad for the fetus). I never saw a consistent recommendation for how much tuna was safe, and it kept changing with every article I read. That's just an example, and for me, yes, that was stressful!

Thank you for a sensible and clear analysis of eating during a pregnancy. Mostly I'm glad you point out the world of difference between avoiding items that would expose you to serious consequences such as listeriosis and those that well, are par for the course in eating food. I've watched several friends suffer through the feeling that they had to scrutinize every food they ate (for quantity, nutrition and safety) so as eat as perfectly as possible for the child's benefit. Throw in a few ill-informed observations by strangers, and yes, the result can be extremely stressed out mothers-to-be, especially if a pregnancy is high-risk.

Thank you so much for such a well reasoned and COMMON SENSE approach to this issue. I followed much the same course when I was pregnant and it was such a relief once I decided to do that. Thanks for the reasonable, Megnut!! And congrats again on your lovely baby!

I completely agree with how stressful food - and drink - can be during pregnancy. It's not just the worry about your baby, it's also the social aspects. Having to ask at restaurants or at friends' what ingredients a dish contains; people looking (or commenting) when they see you eating or drinking something they think you shouldn't; people asking why you're avoiding other foods.

I think people who haven't been pregnant themselves underestimate the overwhelming amount of advice/warning/condemnation thrown at pregnant women.

I tried to be as reasonable as possible without driving myself crazy. I drank an occasional glass of wine after my first trimester - with the blessing of both my midwife and my OB/GYN. I did eat soft cheese as long as they were pasteurized.

But then I spent a month in Italy. How could I go there and not eat mozzarella, not eat prosciutto? Luckily, my sister was living there, and we were able to ask her pregnant friend what Italian doctors advised. They said soft cheeses and salumi were fine, as long as they were fresh-cut, not pre-packaged. To me, it came down to personal judgement about source—prosciutto from Volpetti is very different than honey ham from the deli counter at Safeway.

And once, when I refused a second glass of wine because I was pregnant, the waiter poured it for me anyway, telling me that it would make the baby's blood strong! (Unasked-for advice, again, but it was so nice to hear positive advice instead of doom-saying!)

Thanks for your thoughts on that! It was really interesting to read a moderate approach to eating in pregnancy. So much information out there scares women, who can work themselves into a frenzy on forums and chatboards.

I avoided (and with 3 weeks until the due date, still avoid) soft-boiled eggs, sushi with raw fish and liver. Not a fan of soft cheeses, I didn't particularly miss those, but I have missed liver a lot and soft-boiled eggs. When it comes to sushi, I prefer the veggie options (cucumber and oshinko) and the tempura maki. I have eaten deli meats, sausages and so many other things. It's hard to avoid those living in Poland.

@megnut: Actually, soft cheeses, even when not raw, seem to be prohibited. But I could never seem to find out exactly why, though listeriosis was mentioned.

According to what we learned at Zingerman's Deli and Neal's Yard Dairy, the reason soft cheeses are prohibited even when made from pasteurized milk is because the risk of listeria m entering the cheese after milk pasteurization is high. Listeria m particularly thrives in relatively pH neutral, media with high water activity such as soft cheese.

As cheese matures, the milk cultures digest the lactose into lactic acid, and the cheese loses moisture. Accordingly, harder cheeses are less likely to contain dangerous levels of listeria m.

Mainly for legal liability reasons, I do not advocate serving soft raw milk cheeses to a pregnant woman even when I am confident in their safety, but hard raw milk cheeses are almost certainly fine.

Some raw milk advocates argue that pasteurization kills off benign or even beneficial bacteria naturally present in the milk which will "choke out" listeria m as they compete with it for resources, and that pasteurization can place consumers at greater risk of listeriosis than careful, sanitary production of raw milk cheese. I don't know of any scientific information supporting or undermining this theory, however.

Our family album is filled with pregnant aunts in the 70's, drinking Tab cola and smoking while lying on a mirrored tanning mat. We seem to have turned out fine. Such a wound-up bunch we are, huh.

Thanks, Meg. I thought the whole no-fish-while-pregnant bit was to avoid mercury poisoning.

Congrats on the baby!

Honestly, most women should remain ignorant of the harms to the child, as hormones definately do pass through to the child. Worry will do more harm than what you eat 999 times out of 1000. No point in having a stressed out kid, is there? Plus, where's instinct these days? Be sensitive to your body and you'll find cravings and repulsions. Your body is smarter than you think.
It's like when parents sterilize everything. Sure, the kid is safe from bacteria, but their immune system has nothing to work with, and clean diseases like allergies and asthma kick in. Of course, there is much more to be said (pro and contra) about all these issues, so my last words will be - ignore advice you find in comments posted on the internet. :-)

As my old mum used to say, most things in moderation ...

Good for you! I love this post and wish there were more common sense approaches to this "touchy" subject out there.

Thank you, Meg, for your usual sensible advice and approach to this. It's all too easy to get engulfed by the hard and fast rules that even our (more liberal) European governments and agencies espouse. I think there's a lot to be said for using your own brain, taking your own control over these things, in a responsible manner. You have to feel like your body is your own, at any stage in your life, and during pregnancy when everybody feels they have license to touch you and ask inappropriate questions, it's crucial.

Beautiful piccies of the baby, congratulations. Slainte (good health) to you all!

I think the advice about raw beef (including steaks) is not only about salmonella, but listeria too. Salmonella only exists on the surface of meat (which is why minced meat is often contaminated - the bacteria on the outside is mixed with the rest of the meat), and when you sear a steak it will be free of salmonella. However, if I remember correctly (from my friend, who studies to be a veterinarian) listeria penetrates the surface and exists inside the muscle - which is the reason why steaks should be cooked well done. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Also, I once read an article on the fish vs mercury subject, where a scientist had done several studies that pointed to the fact that the benefits of eating fish surpassed the possible damages from mercury. As well as this, the tuna fish that are used for cans are smaller than the large tuna that are used for fresh meat, so avoiding fresh tuna is more important (the larger the fish, the higher in the food chain ie. contains more mercury).

Thank you for this post, it's very imformative and intelligent (as usual), and many congratulations on the baby!

This is interesting but I have to ask (and I don't mean it in a flame way), why should anyone care what you did during your pregnancy? Why shouldn't a pregnant woman act like every other *person* in the world and just go with what their doctor says, for their particular condition? It's none of my business what you eat when you're pregnant, same as it's none of yours what I do. I hope it's an overstatement that you were worked up the whole 20 months or whatever it was for you, because that does seem like it would be bad for you and for the baby. Also, it seems ridiculous - my father is diabetic, but he doesn't spend his life fretting about all the things that he can't have. Why perpetuate a stereotype about crazy pregnant women? If you trust your doctor, why not just listen to what she says and then you wouldn't have to worry? If you don't trust your doctor, such that you have to do your own (questionable) research, why not get one that you do trust?

Meg,

Congratulations on the baby.

Ollie is a cutie.

There is this whole judgment that is allowed for pregnant women that was baffling while I was pregnant. I was buying wine for our annual holiday party and this woman accosted me for buying wine because it was bad for the baby. I guess when you are pregnant it allows others to openly judge.

Joanne-Most likely your father went through a learning stage about what he could and couldn't eat. The doctor might have given him general information, but he had to find out how the foods affected him personally. I've had diabetes for over twenty years, and I still encounter new foods that I have to figure out for myself. All new diets begin with a period of uncertainty, and nine months is a relatively short amount of time to figure it out.

Another thing to consider: stressing about food is very normalized in North American society, especially for women. Most people don't consider it a source of stress to think about what they should eat, whether they've eaten the wrong thing, whether they're going to get fat, whether they're going to get sick. But excessive "cognitive dietary restraint" is at least associated with higher stress chemical levels, menstrual disturbances (so hormone levels), and bone density loss (possibly as a result of the other two).

So yeah-- worrying about food is not good for you, and is pretty seriously underrated as a source of stress! Good for you for recognizing that feeling happy and relaxed about food is an important part of healthy eating.

Listeria wasn't even an issue before my last pregnancy (kid #3), when my Dr. told me that it had just been put on the "Do Not Eat" list, and by then I had a healthy skepticism of all ingest warnings to pregnant women. I asked him to tell me honestly if he thought it was a danger and he gave me a line that was something like, "I'm legally required to tow this line, etc. etc." but it was sort of tongue in cheek.

Did I mention I've had three pregnancies, resulting in three ridiculously robust children? Essentially, I ate what I wanted to, when I wanted to, and listened to my body, which worked for me. Meg, I took your approach with alcohol (nothing during the first three months) but it was really because the thought of alcohol during those months made me nauseous, not because I was worried about the effects of moderate drinking on my baby.

Moderation and common sense. The same approach works for parenting too.

Hi there,

I too ate sushi while pregnant. I also drank 1 glass of wine during dinner every night. You should have seen the looks of people's faces at restaurants! I felt like a criminal. Someone actually had the nerve to come up to me, stick their finger in my face and said they were going to call child welfare services and report my behavior over 1 glass of wine during a meal out.

Here's the thing. Its much larger than what we eat during pregnancy. Because of public "interest" and politics, we've lost more and more freedom over our bodies, our lives, our children. America, the land of the free, does not give us the right as parents to know when our underage teen daughters go in for an abortion. We cannot spank our kids. We cannot do so many things that our parents, grandparents had the CHOICE to do.

Some of those things, doing drugs and alcoholism during pregnancy are fatal. As a decent human being, I would never choose to engage in any of those activities. I'm sure that if a woman were caught doing any of these things, she would be reported, possibly arrested and lose rights to her unborn child.

But sushi, wine, deli meats, soft cheese - right now, those are things that are kind of on the borderline. One day a politician or activist will introduce a bill for outlawing eating specific foods during pregnancy. Just like foie gras. Where do we draw the line?

I'm all for having choice. for having freedom. but yes, it does come at a price. What kind of world would you rather live in? A bubble-wrapped safe nation stripped of choice? A place where decisions were made FOR you in the interest of public safety?

Or a place where you have choice, access to information and make informed decisions...where you could teach your children right vs. wrong and teach them how to make their own decisions.

This is great. I remember getting dirty looks for glasses of iced tea. ICED TEA! Like caffeine was the fatal or something. You need a lot more caffeine than what is in iced tea to cross the placenta. And even then, the only thing my midwife worries about is that it constricts your blood vessels which may lend itself to a falsely read blood pressure reading.

Also, there is a grassroots movement that believes that listeria in small quantities is good, especially if obtained through raw milk.

http://www.realmilk.com/safety-raw-milk.html

The problem comes about when milk is obtained from poorly cared for animals that pumped full of antibiotics and other substances like contaminated feed.

(As a disclaimer, we drink milk that has been pastuerized at 140 degrees Farenheit, which is the lowest possible temperature allowed for sale in our state. It is also unhomogenized and comes in a very cool glass container that can be returned for a small refund.)

Regarding cheese - Mozarella cheese is fine - its soft cheese that has been mould ripened (like Brie and Camembert) or blue cheese (and for some reason goat's cheese?) that has higher risks of Listeria...as far as I can tell from research.

Here's a really helpful list (and you'll see that there should be something safe for the hardened cheese addict - as long as I can eat fresh mozarella I'm happy):

Cheeses which are SAFE to eat in pregnancy

Hard cheeses:
austrian smoked, Babybel, caerphilly, cheddar, cheshire, derby, double gloucester, edam, emmental, english goat's cheddar, feta (if bought in the UK), gouda, gruyere, halloumi, havarti, jarlsberg, lancashire, mozzarella, orkney, paneer, parmesan, pecorino (hard), provolone, red leicester.

Soft and processed cheeses:
Boursin, cottage cheese, cheese spread, cream cheese, mascarpone, philadelphia, quark, ricotta.

Yoghurts, fromage frais, soured cream and creme fraiche -- any variety, including natural, flavoured and biologically active -- are all safe to eat.

Cheeses to AVOID in pregnancy

Mould-ripened soft cheeses:
brie, blue brie, cambozola, camembert, chaumes, pont L'eveque, prince jean, tallegio. vacherin-fribourgeois, weichkaese.

Blue-veined cheeses:
bavarian blue, bergader, bleu d'Auvergne, blue shropshire, cabrales, Danish blue, dolcelatte, doppelrhamstuge, eldel pilz, gorgonzola, manchego, romano, roncal, roquefort, stilton, tommes, wensleydale (blue).

Soft unpasteurised goat and sheep's cheeses:
chabichou, pyramide, torta del cesar.

(source: http://www.babycentre.co.uk/pregnancy/nutrition/foodsafety/cheeseexpert/?_requestid=1340442)

Loved the post and all the comments. Guess what? I'm 5 weeks pregnant and I'm going to eat some Sushi right now, Spicy Tuna to be exact. Haven't had it in months and I am craving it, yummy yummy.

Thank you for writing this. As someone who's considering pregnancy soon it's refreshing to read a sensible approach like yours. I am really hoping to take a smart but non-alarmist approach to pregnancy and parenting and it's great to find others of a similar mindset.

My dad did go through a learning stage, but it was pretty short. He read a book called Reversing Diabetes, which recommended avoiding sugar (and foods that turn to sugar) and exercising every day. He lost 110 pounds in one year and has reversed his diabetes, and is chugging away, seven years later. I just don't understand the heroism involved in not doing what your doctor says is going to be best for you and your baby. It's ridiculous, the supposed terror that we as pregnant women go through - 'they say I can't have wine! I WANT wine! Boo hoo!'

While I agree that the thing about cheese is ridiculous, as cheese is pasteurized in the United States, I just don't understand why someone is seen as a brave pioneer of some kind for not doing what their doctor says when they're pregnant, but if they had diabetes, or high cholesterol, or a host of other things, and didn't do what their doctor recommended, they'd just be an idiot who wasn't doing what was best for their health. I tire of women going on about how they know what's best for them when they're pregnant - why have a doctor anyway? I have friends who continue to smoke cigarettes while they're pregnant, because they don't want to 'shock' their system. It's ridiculous.

Actually, the biggest danger in rare meat isn't salmonella *or* listeria, it's toxoplasmosis. This is something that can cross the placental barrier and harm the fetus directly, so I'd place it in the 'scary enough to avoid' category personally. Other than that I totally agree with the philosophy here.

I adore brie, and my OB is very sensible about all the warnings pregnant women get about *everything*. She's fond of saying that our grandmothers survived doing all the things we're warned about, and to just use common sense. I just melt my brie in the toaster oven over a bagel and enjoy.

I am relieved to find out that I am not the only one stressing about what I can or cannot eat/drink. I think about it every time I'm thinking of my next meal/snack (which is contantly!) I love sushi, coffee, Pepsi, chocolate... and apparently I'm supposed to avoid all this for 9 months + who knows how much longer while breastfeeding? Insane. And I've only got 7 more months to go!
I think it's hilariously amusing how someone who says why should anyone care what you did during pregnancy... actually read about what you did during your pregnancy. You know, it's because you're the only pregnant women in the entire universe and it's not like your advice/opinions/experience could help anyone else anyway.

I am so thrilled to see that someone has finally raised awareness on the sorely needed prohibition of the consumption of chicken enchiladas by pregnant women.
(please, this was very tongue on cheek, I am right there with your thoughts on food prohibitions and pregnancy, though I would add alcohol too).
I was on bed rest and through my research on treatments for women with the diagnosis I had, Ip learned some interesting things; which included that as early as 20 years ago many doctors gave IV alcohol to women (who had constant contractions) to prevent miscarriage, there are still doctors who tell women (in these same circumstances) that a glass of wine with dinner is acceptable... perception of risk in pregnancy is interesting...

You know, my doctor told me that in the '50's, women who had trouble with morning sickness were sometimes counselled BY THEIR DOCTORS to take up smoking.

This is all a very inexact science.

THANK YOU! I craved sushi when I was pregnant, and I ate lots of it, all while enduring the withering stares of the parent police in SF, CA. I figured, millions of Japanese women do it, why couldn't I?
Drank that damn glass of wine, too, (even tho I could never finish it), just to watch people squirm. Friends from Europe just laughed at the hysterical standards over here.
Fantastic post. Thanks again, and congrats on your little boy!

Relief - finally another pregnant woman I can relate to. People just don't get it! Sometimes I feel like I'm crazy because I understand information differently than others. I knew I read What to Expect When You're Expecting correctly!! That sushi was damn good!

Thanks for the post, Meg. I'm pregnant with my 2nd now and struggle with the same rational thought vs. guilt. It's great to hear some sensible perspective.

Congrats on the baby!!

I completely agree with Meg's approach and it's similar to what I have been doing (currently in my third trimester).

However, I do think that there's a flaw in the "our aunts and grandmothers drank and smoked and we turned out fine" logic. The reality is that a lot of babies didn't turn out fine for many many reasons. I'm not saying that going with your instinct and moderation is a bad thing I'm just saying that a combination of research (which Meg clearly emphasizes), doctor/midwife advice, and common sense is the best course.

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