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Oh, Baby! What to Expect Before You’re Expecting

3 minute read
Bonnie Rochman

Sitting on my bookshelf are well-thumbed copies of Heidi Murkoff’s What to Expect When You’re Expecting and What to Expect the First Year, handed down from one neurotic mother to another. To complete the anxiety-inducing trilogy, the bestselling author’s latest oeuvre, What to Expect Before You’re Expecting, is hitting stores this month. The basic premise of the 275-page book, which is touted as “the complete preconception plan,” is that mothers-to-be should devote at least three months to getting ready to get pregnant. So welcome to a trimester’s worth of pre-gestational fretting.

You’re either a fan of these sorts of let-me-give-you-the-worst-case-scenario books or you’re not. While there’s no doubt Murkoff’s tomes are brimming with well-researched information, they’re also packed with implausible situations that serve only to ramp up maternal anxiety. To wit: super-frequent flyers could risk excessive radiation exposure from the sun at high altitudes, so if you’re pregnant, Murkoff says you might consider revamping your itinerary in favor of shorter flights at lower altitudes. (See pictures of the top 10 pregnant performers.)

This kind of fear-mongering reaches new heights in Murkoff’s newest release. To say this book is exhaustive would be an understatement. It touches on everything from laser eye surgery (avoid it if you’re even thinking about making a baby) to coloring your hair (highlights are safer than permanent dye; good idea to consult with your stylist on a “pre-pregnancy hair color plan”). The second half of the book explores challenges to fertility, and it’s here that readers will find fewer silly what-ifs and more sage advice. The book follows the same Q&A format as others in the series. One question: “I’m a stresser by nature, so naturally I’m already stressing about how stress is going to affect my chances of getting pregnant. Help!”

“A book like this is organized around anxiety,” says Maggie Little, a bioethicist at Georgetown University and a member of the Ob-Gyn Risk Research Group, which includes experts from obstetrics and gynecology as well as bioethics, philosophy, medical epidemiology and sociology, who mull over risk — both real and perceived — in women’s reproductive lives. “It would take a normal person and make her crazy.”

As with any new genre, there’s lots of lingo to learn in order to speak the language of pre-conception fluently. Much of it will already be familiar to women who haunt fertility Web sites and message boards. TTC = trying to conceive. Aunt Flo, or AF, refers to the monthly visitor that makes for an especially unwelcome guest when trying to get baby on board. Murkoff devotes an entire page to other acronyms, alphabetized and far more obscure: If BD is baby dance, a.k.a. sex, then DP translates as dancing partner. There’s also BFN (big fat negative) and BFP (big fat positive) to describe pregnancy-test results, natch. And don’t forget the appropriate salutation or, as the case may be, sign-off: FTTA (fertile thoughts to all).

Read about last year’s pregnancy boom at Gloucester High.

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