What to Expect When You’re Expecting

A correspondent asked me to review the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel. She wrote “I’m very worried about this book.” She had just seen an NPR article about the book and was alarmed because it provided an excerpt from the book recommending that patients with morning sickness “Try

Eating Placentas: Cannibalism, Recycling, or Health Food?

After giving birth, most mammals eat the afterbirth, the placenta. Most humans don’t. Several hypotheses have been suggested as to why placentophagy might have had evolutionary survival value, but are there any actual benefits for modern women? Placentophagy has been recommended for various reasons, from nutritional benefit to preventing postpartum depression to “honoring the placenta.”

Childbirth Without Pain: Are Epidurals the Answer?

Is unmedicated natural childbirth a good idea? The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) points out that There is no other circumstance in which it is considered acceptable for a person to experience untreated severe pain, amenable to safe intervention, while under a physician’s care. It is curious when an effective science-based treatment is

Home Birth Safety

More and more American women (1 in 200) are opting for home birth, and midwife-assisted home birth is common in other developed countries. How safe is it compared to birth in a hospital? A new study sheds some light on the subject. It was recently published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology: Maternal

Alcohol and Pregnancy

We know that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause birth defects; the government-mandated warnings on alcoholic beverage labels constantly remind us of that fact. But toxicologists remind us that the poison is in the dose: what is the dose of alcohol that causes birth defects? Heavy drinking can cause fetal alcohol syndrome, but there is

Birth Day

So many of the posts on this blog are critical and deal with examples of poor science or other problems. I’d like to offer a breath of fresh air in the form of a book by Mark Sloan, MD: Birth Day: A Pediatrician Explores the Science, the History, and the Wonder of Childbirth. It is

A Skeptical Look at Screening Tests

I’m an equal opportunity skeptic. I’m skeptical about alternative medicine, pseudoscience, and quackery; but I apply the same standards of skepticism to conventional medicine. I don’t write about conventional medicine so much, because I don’t need to. Science itself is inherently skeptical and scientific medicine is self-criticizing and self-correcting. When better evidence comes along, medical

Sterile Water Injections for Pain Relief

Before ethical standards changed, doctors used to occasionally fool patients with placebo injections of sterile saline or water. If my obstetrician had tried to give me sterile water instead of an epidural, I probably would have hit him. But apparently women are getting sterile water injections for childbirth and are telling us they work. What’s

Bioidentical Hormones: Estrogen is Good. No, It’s Bad. No, It’s Good

MENOPAUSAL WOMEN USED TO HAVE NO ESCAPE from the sufferings of the dreaded “Change.” In the mid-20th century, they were offered a reprieve. They could take a pill to replace their missing hormones, and feel back to normal. That was good in itself, but then they found that replacing estrogens could prevent osteoporosis and hip