As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I went out and bought this book; I thought it was the one everyone bought and, to be honest, I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about it. The pregnancy/childbirth section of any bookstore is enough to make you completely overwhelmed, especially if you don't know what you are looking for, so I didn't bother looking around at anything else. Then I went to the doctor to get my diagnosis confirmed and the nurse was rather dismayed that I had already purchased "What To Expect."
She told me it wasn't a very good one. "It's a little scary sometimes," she said. Instead, she rcommended some other books that I did eventually check out from the library and look through. I'll probably write about them later.
I haven't found "What To Expect" to be scary so far (I haven't read the chapter on labor and delivery yet because, well, that part of my brain is not really ready to engage in that part of my future). Mostly, I just find it ridiculous as it continually lists the nine thousand or so things pregnant ladies should never do. Wait, let me take that back. It lists the nine thousand or so every day items and actions you've never thought about before and tells you that you shouldn't do them anymore. And while it does point out that while you're an adult and you can do whatever you want, most of these things just might kill/injure/maim/ruin/otherwise make stupid your unborn baby -- and don't you want the best future possible for your family?
A perfect example is the section on alcohol. Now, for me, even before I got knocked up, I knew it wasn't a great idea to drink while you were pregnant -- I knew about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). But I've also known a lot of friends who didn't find out they were pregnant until the first few months had passed, and they drank during that time, and nothing bad happened to them or their babies. According to "What To Expect," "there's no evidence that a couple of drinks on a couple of occasions very early in pregnancy can harm a developing embryo." But this is followed up with five long paragraphs telling you why you'd better stop drinking immediately. The advice is conflicting and probably for good reason -- if you drank before you knew you were pregnant, there's no way to rewind the clock, so it's no good worrying about it now, but to provide "the best" for your baby you have to start following the rules as soon as you read this chapter.
I'm using the alcohol section as an example because the danger of doing something to the baby is real (although they point out that FAS usually comes from having 5-6 drinks A DAY, something I don't know if I've ever done, not even in college). But the advice about, say, feta cheese and lunch meat sounds just as stern -- you can easily read the subtext as "you'll ruin your baby!" Same with the advice about spending too much time in hot tubs or the effects of sleeping on your back after the fourth month. Same with the advice about wearing high heels or gaining too much weight in the first trimester. They all have the same manner of, "if you didn't know about it before, don't worry too much, but NOW THAT YOU KNOW YOU HAVE TO QUIT!"
The list of things I can't or shouldn't do, or things that will, I don't know, make the baby stupid or something, is practically endless. And in reading this book, it's kind of hard to keep straight which things are actual dangers (too hot hot tubs), which things are just cautions (unpasturized feta) and which things simply increase your chances of falling down (high heels). You don't read it like that, or at least I don't. I read and make a mental list of "things to avoid" and at the end, I have no idea why. I just know that the list is growing with every chapter.
I'm glad I read the other books my doctor recommended because they were a lot less picky about the details, which really put this one into perspective for me.
(Quote is from "What To Expect" 2002 edition because I am cheap and bought it used.)