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Pregnancy Diet Myths

Is It Time to Rethink Drinking, Sushi, and Deli Meat During Pregnancy?

When a doctor warns a pregnant woman not to drink wine or coffee, eat sushi or deli meats, or gain too much weight, she can start to feel more like a child than a mom. But in her book Expecting Better, economist, mom, and University of Chicago associate professor Emily Oster says such pregnancy diet rules are unnecessary.

While Oster agrees with the medical community that heavy and binge drinking is dangerous to a developing child and pregnant mom, she says, "there are a large number of quite good studies with a lot of women that show having an occasional glass of wine does not seem to pose a problem, that children of pregnant women who drink occasionally have similar, or in some cases even better, outcomes than children of women who abstain" from drinking.

Oster started researching pregnancy fallacies when she was pregnant herself and dove into data covering everything including wine, weight gain, prenatal testing, and epidurals. Among her conclusions are that an occasional alcoholic drink is OK, bed rest is not advisable, gaining too much weight may be less risky than gaining too little weight, it's OK to eat sushi, and drinking coffee in moderation is fine.

Join The Conversation
JenniferHavenner JenniferHavenner 3 years

I had absolutely no stomach for alcohol in the first few months of my pregnancy, but toward the end after the morning sickness (which should be called 24hour Sickness...) waned, I did indulge in an occasional glass of wine or beer. I also ate sushi and generally tons of fish. I drank lightly when I was breastfeeding as well. My British mother was shocked that I would do otherwise, in England she was given a Guinness a day by the hospital staff and midwives to help with milk production. My son was born healthy and at age six, I can count on one hand how many times he's been sick. My point is that, as a society, we're a bit prudish when it comes to pregnancy rules. I think it's more harmful to fret and worry about the 'what ifs' than it is to simply practice moderation in all matters and exercise a little common sense.

JessicaCortez1379464429 JessicaCortez1379464429 3 years
I drank red wine my whole first pregnancy at least once a week cus my doc said it helped the circulation from me to baby and would help with brain development. However, with my son I couldn't stand the taste of wine or the smell of alcohol so I hardly ever had any. My daughter cam out perfect and is smart as all can be, and my son has been amazing at sports since he could pick up a ball he is also very smart but has a short attention span (I think cus hes a boy lol). I think as long as everything you do is in moderation nothing can be too harmful, unless your into serious drugs =/. Well theres my 2 cents
KellyWalkerEveritt KellyWalkerEveritt 3 years
When I got pregnant I was so paranoid about everything I needed to do right. Don't do this, do that, this makes a healthy smarter baby, this causes 2heads to grow... I was a wreck because before I found out I was pregnant I had just that weekend before drank several glasses of wine and fot slightly drunk. I felt awful because gosh I should of been drinking orange juice.. I also gave up caffeine. Pregnancy was just miserable. Going back I wish I had been more laid back and not so worried about every little thing. So I think we shouldn't obsess over so much. As for a little wine, I don't think not should become a huge part of pregnancy, but maybe a little isn't too bad. I was such a wreck and having so many false contractions due to stress my OBY looked at me and asked me if I drank. When I told him i did before pregnancy he told me that with the holidays coming up it might be helpful to take a sip or two of my husbands drink. By the way I did have a few sips at New Years and my daughter is just fine and normal and plus my nerves settled enough that night so my skin didn't feel crawly.... Also let me be clear I am not saying everyone go out and drink or use it as a nerve tonic but I think we should lighten up a bit. It's important to take care of our bodies, but unless we do the time researching we shouldn't judge and maybe not take everything so serious.
AliciaHauskins1372963911 AliciaHauskins1372963911 3 years
I never drank while pregnant with either of my children, even if I could justify it, I just... didn't want to. But with my first daughter I did not find out I was pregnant until I was almost 6 months along... I had the depo shot and not only didn't have periods but thought I couldn't get pregnant. (Turns out I was in the .07% who did...) Anyway... the DR told me it was my choice to quit smoking or not... since I was so far along it may have been dangerous to quit cold turkey. So I kept smoking, though cutting back every few days, until, by the end, I was barely smoking at all. My daughter is fine (thank goodness) but I was worried for a bit... then i talked to my grandma (shows how far things have come in 40 years) because, when i told her I was smoking while pregnant (my big shame) she was like... "so?"
ErinnaLake ErinnaLake 3 years
I saw an interview with the woman who wrote the book in question. She defined occasional drinking as 1/2 a standard drink per day, up to 2 drinks per week. And moderate coffee consumption as less than 3 cups per day. She didn't mention anything specific about the foods. She did a lot of research on many different studies to come to these conclusions. If you want more info, then READ THE BOOK. Especially if you are going to criticize her, you should get your facts straight first.
VictoriaGloria VictoriaGloria 3 years
I've got two children. With my first I followed all the rules. I was cranky, stressed out all the time and miserable. Part of that was that I was always sick and part of it was the laundry list of things that I wasn't to do, eat or drink. With my son I used common sense. I didn't cut out everything that I enjoyed simply because someone told me it was bad for the baby or that it would do this or that. I talked to my doctor, I did my own research. I had a glass of wine on special occasions or got coffee with my girl friends. My husband would take me out to eat and I'd order the seafood on occasion. Both of my children are more than fine. They are bright and extremely intelligent children. I am DISGUSTED by the rude and vindictive comments I've read here. "I wouldn't be suprised if her children have learning disorders" Seriously?! EVERYTHING about pregnancy and parenthood is full of drama and controversy. There is no difference between attacking someone for this and attacking someone for co-sleeping or choosing to use disposable diapers over cloth, breast feeding over formula. Children survived before all of these ever became an issue. Other countries look at us in America and think that we're the crazy ones because we are so strict about the rules for what should be the most amazing times of our lives! Live and let live! Stop worrying about everyone else's choices and take a look in the mirror!
MeganBradley29320 MeganBradley29320 3 years
I have 3 children, I am not really a big drinker, so it was no big deal to not drink while pregnant. However, that said, think about the middle ages when all they drank was ale, cider, and beer. All alcoholic beverages. That was their primary source of hydration back then since most of the water was contaminated with human waste. I am sure that women were drinking all of this while pregnant and the human race continued to thrive. I really don't think a glass of wine once in a blue moon is going to hurt anything. It is personal choice.
MayaOpperman MayaOpperman 3 years
Luckily for me, both my GP and my gynae never advised any kind of restricted diet. My GP laughed when I asked if I could eat sushi - what about all the Japanese - do you think they stop eating that kind of thing, and they're doing just fine. On my second pregnancy, I got around to asking my gynae about soft cheeses: have you ever been sick from eating soft cheese? No? Then what are you worried about? BTW, my gynae is the best in the area, he has a waiting list about 6 month's long. Obviously, everything in moderation. If you've never eaten something ever before, while you're pregnant is probably not the best time to try.
KimberleyKrueger KimberleyKrueger 3 years
My biggest pet peeve is having people tell me "it's ok to drink while you're pregnant"...because you know's ok to NOT drink while you are pregnant too......i have been pregnant three times and abstained from drinking for not only the 9 months of the pregnancy but the ensuing months while breast feeding also.......Not only did i survive the not kids all turned out just fine......
TiffanyBruneau TiffanyBruneau 3 years
Thank goodness someone is being a bit more common-sense about pregnancy. A half glass of wine, one sushi night, these things wont affect the fetus. Even doctors who are very against these things will tell you it's the accumulation of drinks or raw meats, etc that are the problem, not the single time.
AmandaDesbiens AmandaDesbiens 3 years
Irresponsible! Define for me why you would need to drink while pregnant? Smoking, drinking all the same in effecting the fetus negatively .... The effects of alcohol use and marijuana is so damaging children cannot come back from that. I professionally work with children affected by FASD. Brain Damages very simple. Shame on this irresponsible can someone be. Won't be surprised if her child will be diagnosed with learning disabilities/ ADHD OCD this is very serious.
CoMMember1361325408281 CoMMember1361325408281 3 years
Everyone's version of occasional is different. Before anyone says its OK to go do whatever (coffee, alcohol, sushi), they need to define "OCCASIONAL" for EVERYONE. Come up with a medical standard for doctors and patients to follow (EX: once a week, twice a week, three times a week). That way people can't be like, "But you said it was ok OCCASIONALLY!", when the situation turns arse up with baby. This again roots back to my first statement, that everyone has a different opinion on what occasional is, and that it needs to be defined for EVERYONE in this situation. You know because someone is going to go do this stuff, and if it goes wrong, they'll sue the doctor, or the writer of the book for something that goes against common sense. But, that does not mean I agree with the post, I'm just saying that if people so CHOOSE to try it that they should at least set forth guidelines for people to follow on "occasional". Guidelines to cover the doctor's behinds so that blatant misuse of "occasionally" can't be used against them. Patient saying, "But he said occasionally! I thought that meant blah blah blah!" It will get rid of the blurry lines and have a clear line of which is TOO much. It will also get rid of those petty cases of pure stupidity.
JenniferMcGladrey85771 JenniferMcGladrey85771 3 years
filomena, please don't spread myths! When you drink during pregnancy, it is not "filtered" in any significant way! It goes from your blood supply into the fetus' blood supply, and their bodies have to work to metabolize the alcohol. Why give your unborn baby poison (alcohol is a poison)? I would prefer to give them nourishing foods and beverages that will HELP, not hinder, their development in the womb.
MollyStafa MollyStafa 3 years
Why even risk it? Endangering your child when it could have been avoided is abuse.
GloriaBorton GloriaBorton 3 years
This woman is not in the medical field. Do not follow her medical advice! Why play Russian roulette with your child's brain? Raising children with FEtal alcohol effects is not fun. I adopted two children when they were 10 and 12. And watching them struggle in school, with everyday life, with friendships, it's heartbreaking. It can't be undone. These kids can't be reprogrammed. No one chooses to do this to their children; or do they? The brain of your child is developing, and may not be as resilient as you are being told. Please, even if there is only a slight chance that drinking alcohol will affect your unborn child, .., it is NOT worth it. Grow up and abstain. It is a game of Russian roulette.
filomena56805 filomena56805 3 years
Like everything in life, we need to be sensible. Most of the (sad) stories here are due to excessive drinking and drugs. In Europe, most of the doctors don't forbid pregnant woman to have a small drink every now and then, but they refer that it's exceptional, just a little sip in a special occasion, it's not a sip of wine that is going to cause damage to your fetus, it's the excess, it's the great amounts and the continuous abuse of these substances. If you a have a small glass of wine during your pregancy, the alcohol doens't even reach the fetus, everything you have is filtered and only large amounts would cause damage. I am the mother of 2 beautiful healthy children, super successful at school, super well behaved and have had a few sips of red wine during my pregancies, it was not luck that my children didn't get damage, it was being sensible. Like I was watching my weight, practiced exercise, and didn't eat crap.
KimGordon66967 KimGordon66967 3 years
NEXT IT WILL BE OK TO SMOKE!!I am a mother of two and there would be no way I would take thst chance. Plus what person in their right mind would take medical advice from someone other than tbeir obgyn.
RobertaConnauton RobertaConnauton 3 years
This is a scary way of thinking. I am raising a child that is the victim of fetal alcohol. He is 24 yrs. old, the size of a 7 yr. old, other than "mom" he does not talk or walk. As there is no way to fix the holes in the brain why would you take that chance with your baby.
SarahDavis48509 SarahDavis48509 3 years
I don't understand why you would even risk drinking while pregnant. Are there healthy benefits to an occasional glass of red wine? Sure, but can you not get these benefits elsewhere in a way that is safe for your baby? Want to relax? Take a bath, get a massage, take a nap! There are other ways to relax! I am a mother of 3 children (ages 3, almost 2, and almost 1) and pregnant with my 4th. I had terrible circulatory issues in my last pregnancy and the doctor told me I should have a glass of red wine every night in my thirds trimester. I absolutely refused! Instead, I wore compression stockings from the moment I got out of bed until I got back into bed at night and did what I could with two young children to elevate my feet. I don't mean to come off as self righteous, none of us are perfect. I gave in to an occasional cup of black tea, which has caffeine. But for me, when it came to alcohol, it was a very clear and simple answer. It was a huge no no, as there are no benefits you can get from it that could possibly outweigh the cost/risk.
Tabitha79424 Tabitha79424 3 years
So I'm with this one, i followed all the rules of pregnancy to the dot with my first child, i was so worried that something bad would happen if i didn't, and for that reason i didn't even have a drink at my wedding. But you see even though i was strict with my self my son was born at 39 weeks by induction due to such sever Pre-eclampsia that it would have killed both of us if i hadn't gotten to the hospital when i did, he was born at just over 6 pounds, which in my family is small, he wasn't breathing either. He has sever learning difficulties and has been diagnosed with ASD. I changed my mind with my next son, i didn't follow everything to the letter, i had the occasional drink if there was something worth celebrating, he was born 2 days late, weighed 7.7pounds, still small for my family but much better than the first, he was healthy and so far the only issue he has is a hearing issues which is a genetic issue from his fathers side, and requires gromets. I came to the conclustion that during my first pregnancy i was so stressed by following all these rules that it was just as bad for the baby as if i'd been allowing my self a little freedom like they said would hurt him.
AnnaGlendenning AnnaGlendenning 3 years
I held him for the first time when he was 1 year old... His older sister and he became my children on One day--in January 2003. He was perfect...he hardly cried...he was the best baby I ever met.... His sister--was a mess already, but nothing I could not accept and face with a strong and loving heart..... After all, I had already raised my two babies--and they were great successes... Surely, with my maturity and the Money my husband made--we would be the best parents for our children.... When he was 2 1/2 he still did not speak--I accessed early interventions services, we went to therapy 5 days a week until he started kindergarten. When I would mention the Little things I was educated and saw in his sister....the teachers would assure me he was fine, nothing to worry about... Along the way, while his sister was in and out of treatment here and residential treatment there I lost a husband--he wanted to give up on her--I did not. My little boy was in 4th grade when he made a death threat to a little girl, when he started to Act Out and everyone expected him to know the rules, and understand the consequences...the problem is HIS Brain has holes in it... He is smart enough for somethings--yet lacks any ability to understand cause and effect. He is a bully--he targets children, he is an ass at home--most of my time is spent teaching him the same basic lessons day after day--over and over--We all understand kids with FASD require repeated lessons about the same things over and over.... We all accept that He and His sister May have the emotional maturity of an 18 year old by the time they are 26--we hope that anyway...until then every single day--I love my little girl and her little brother and Advocate and Fight the Fight to help them along this hard road in life. I can actually look around this world and point out which Adults have FASD shows even in their 40's and it is permanent brain damage.... The effects can be random-from anything to everything--when you have a hole in your brain it effects whatever should have been where the whole is. Both of my children have FASD--both have it in completely different ways... both will have brain damage forever---My daughter will Always have part of her ear on her temple it can't be removed and looks like Zits she hates it she is 15 and a piece of her ear looks like a Zit on her face... My son will struggle forever trying to read--he needs every thing to be exactly perfect and the Font even makes a difference for him.... There is a difference between the New Times Font "4" and the "4" in a different font--that Means they are Different for Him.... it makes it hard.....he feels stupid...that makes him mad....he wishes he was normal--he tells pregnant woman, Please do not Drink--he asked them if they eat right--if they know they have a baby--if they care about the baby--if they plan to be the babies Mommy or not---he tells people he Was Not Born like they were--He does Did Not Do this to Himself!!! Nothing will Fix it....and he has a lot of stress.... It will not get better For Him, one day he will become an adult--maybe go to jail for the fact he cannot think the way he might have...if his mother had not Drank....
NancyHicks NancyHicks 3 years
One glass of wine can cause fetal alcohol syndrome. Why would anyone say its okay to drink during pregnancy?
CoMMember13627172714354 CoMMember13627172714354 3 years
Why do women who put their baby's health at risk by drinking or smoking always feel the need to justify it with "my baby is just fine."? What if your baby was meant to be the next Einstein, or Ghandi, but instead, is just fine? The way I see it: If I'm taking the responsibility to get pregnant and make a human being, I owe it to that human being to do the best I can. After all, if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right! So, please, stop writing about how your children are just fine, trying to convince others to make your poor choices. It's best to do the best you can for your unborn child. PERIOD.
Noodles60543 Noodles60543 3 years
@ Anna, you do not "sugar coat" anything you wrote but I agree. FASD is totally something that is going on and people do not totally realize what it is and the consequences of drinking while pregnant. Your child might be fine but once they hit a certain age they will be right along with the misdiagnosed ADD children. Its a harsh reality but take responsibility and help your kids while they are young, don't ignore it.
Noodles60543 Noodles60543 3 years
I would like to tell a portion of my story. I drank moderately-heavily without knowing that I was pregnant. Besides drinking I worked out regularly and ate healthy, but I liked to drink and was "irregular" and just didn't know I was pregnant for at least a few months. I was afraid that my baby was going to be totally suffering from my STUPIDITY but I just pushed on with my pregnancy and told myself that I would do everything right for her that I needed to. While going through my pregnancy (not drinking once I found out and eating good, etc), I researched the effects of alcohol on babies. I was scared to death. After long waited Dr. visits and such I can say that my daughter is healthy and totally beautiful and amazing. Before going through our journey I would tell anyone who had a drink while pregnant that they are crazy. After what we went through I will say that anyone drinking while pregnant is playing with fire... for their life and their baby's life. An occasional drink I guess is acceptable but in reality why is it necessary?
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