What we need to know about tiny things that go bump in the night
A new book examines the scientific facts behind pregnancy advice so women can make their own choices, writes ARMINTA WALLACE
Does the world really need another pregnancy book? Having a baby has already become a nine-month minefield of dos and don’ts, ifs and buts – and “helpful” advice which is often anything but helpful.
Bumpology, though, is different. Written as a series of questions and subtitled An Evidence-Based Guide to Bumps, Birth and Beyond, it pokes a scientific scalpel into all the myths, anecdotes, scraps of hearsay and scary monsters which lurk in the expectant-parent undergrowth.
“When I was pregnant for the first time three years ago,” says author Linda Geddes, “I felt bombarded with advice from newspapers, from doctors, friends and even strangers in the street, telling me I shouldn’t be having a glass of wine with my dinner or carrying a suitcase up a flight of stairs.”
She ended up confused, conflicted and permanently guilt-stricken. “Every week, expectant parents are given new things to worry about,” she writes in the foreword to the book. “Pregnant women mustn’t eat too much as it may raise the baby’s risk of obesity or diabetes, but we mustn’t diet as that could have a similar effect. Neither can we exercise, for fear of triggering a miscarriage. It’s enough to raise your blood pressure just thinking about it; only we mustn’t get stressed because that’s bad for the baby too . . .”
During her second pregnancy, rather than just get mad, Geddes decided to get even. A writer with New Scientist magazine on biology, medicine and technology, she was well placed to make a systematic study of research papers, ask pointed questions of doctors, scientists and specialists – and present her findings in a readable, humorous, easy-going style.
Bumpology is written as a series of questions with short, essay-style summaries of the most up-to-date research on each topic. The questions range from the severely practical – How much alcohol is it safe to drink during pregnancy? How dangerous is it to eat Camembert and blue cheese? – to the wonderfully whimsical. Can unborn babies taste what Mum is eating? Do babies like some people better than others?
This second type of question, Geddes confesses, was the kind that really obsessed her during her own pregnancies. “Every week I’d be scouring the internet for more information about what the baby was doing this week,” she says. “And all I could find was just really trivial stuff like ‘Now your baby is growing fingernails’ or, ‘Its eyelids are opening’ or, ‘It has eyelashes’.