August 03, 2006


Your Pregnancy Quick Guides: Women of Color; Understanding and Enhancing Your Baby’s Development. By Glade B. Curtis, OB/GYN, and Judith Schuler, M.S. Da Capo. $7.95 each.

     The excellent Your Pregnancy Quick Guide series has developed a bad case of marketing-itis and political correctness – a dangerous combination.  Long a source of excellent, objective information on the medical aspects of pregnancy and the early years of raising a child, the series is now delving into areas that seem mainly justifiable as the flavor of the week in a politically polarized world.

     This is a shame, because the strictly medical information here is as strong, accurate and well-presented as ever.  But it is hard to take seriously, on a scientific basis, a book called Women of Color, with a subtitle, “What You Need to Know about Pregnancy and Childbirth if You’re of African, Latin, Asian, Native American, Middle Eastern or Mediterranean Descent.”  Wow!  How did “Mediterranean” sneak in there?  Is this a new protected group that will soon be arguing for government-mandated preferential treatment?

     Yes, there is some evidence of disparities in prenatal and postpartum health among certain racial and ethnic groups.  But are the disparities racially linked – or are they caused by social distinctions, poverty and other factors that spare no particular group or race?  There is no certain answer to that question, and a book that behaves as if there is seems more a marketing ploy than a reasoned pregnancy-care volume.  Yet this book is reasoned – and reasonable.  It contains excellent information on nutrition, health, fitness, smoking, alcohol use and other issues during pregnancy – all matters of concern to every pregnant woman.  There are brief discussions of some conditions that are genuinely linked to specific groups, such as Familial Mediterranean Fever.  But most matters discussed here are concerns for everyone: diabetes, low birth weight, hepatitis, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and so on. If this book’s title leads to it being bought by women who would not otherwise pay attention to their health during pregnancy, more power to it.  But that seems unlikely.  For all its excellent information, the book’s approach simply seems cynical.

     As for Understanding and Enhancing Your Baby’s Development: it is a week-by-week guide to typical physical, intellectual and social growth during a baby’s first year.  It is quite similar to the authors’ earlier book, Your Baby’s First Year Week by Week, though the developmental emphasis here is somewhat different.  Of course, every baby is a unique individual – but a parent (especially a first-time parent) who reads this book and whose baby does not progress step by step may become alarmed.  Yet once again, the basic information here is excellent, if readers do not take the timetable too literally.  Much of the material is drawn from other books in this series, but it is scattered in those books and brought together in a timeline here.  The best parts of this book are the suggested activities to try with baby each week – again, understanding that a Week 19 activity may be appropriate for one baby at Week 16 and for another at Week 22.  Incidentally, women of color – any color, from light beige to dark brown, or even green or purple – will find the book just as useful as women of no color…if any such exist.

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