April 24, 2008


Your Pregnancy Week by Week, 6th Edition. By Glade B. Curtis, M.D., M.P.H., and Judith Schuler, M.S. Da Capo. $15.95.

      Every few years, the emergence of a new, updated edition of Your Pregnancy Week by Week confirms once again that there is simply no better guide to pregnancy than this thoroughly researched, plainspoken and well written book by Glade Curtis and Judith Schuler. Although the book runs more than 600 pages, its week-by-week format and the authors’ breakdown of chapters into short sections makes it quite readable; and since it is a week-by-week guide, each week takes up only about 15 pages of text – not an unreasonable amount for soon-to-be mothers and fathers to find time to read.

      Curtis and Schuler really do see pregnancy as involving both responsible parties. Although most of the book is written from the woman’s point of view, much of the text contains information that both man and woman will want to know about; and the authors include a “Dad Tip” every now and then, specifically targeting the man. One example: “If you have pets, take over their care during your partner’s pregnancy. Change the cat’s litter box (she shouldn’t do this while pregnant). Walk the dog (the pull on the leash might hurt her back). Buy food and other pet supplies (to save her back from the strain of lifting big food bags). Make and keep vet appointments.” Clear, forthright advice, offered in jargon-free language, with explanations of why the advice is being given – this is the Curtis/Schuler style, and it is a highly effective one.

      One feature of continuing amazement in Your Pregnancy Week by Week is the update on a baby’s size and appearance – including, in almost every week, a drawing showing what the fetus looks like and what size it is. Although much of the book’s advice will be of greatest value to first-time parents, even people with several children will find it fascinating to realize what an embryo goes through as it turns into a miniature human being after beginning as an odd, tailed, almost fishlike body of cells. Yet it is the words rather than the illustrations that are most useful here: suggested exercises to do at every stage of pregnancy; nutritional information and suggestions; and a section called “You Should Also Know” that includes everything from a list of lab tests your doctor may order to a warning to “avoid anxiety-producing TV programs” about labor and delivery, because “even when the content is not sensational, we have found pregnant women who watch these television programs can experience increased levels of anxiety.”

      Curtis, a board-certified OB/GYN and father of five, and longtime collaborator Schuler in no way sugarcoat the experience of pregnancy and child-rearing. They discuss Down syndrome and other birth defects, warn that “having a baby costs money!” and suggest ways to estimate some of those costs, talk about problems that warrant an immediate call to your doctor, explain how pregnancy affects sexuality, and much more. But everything they explain is presented with a helpful, supportive spirit that soon-to-be-parents will find refreshingly honest, even when the information itself is not upbeat. In fact, Curtis and Schuler try to make helpful suggestions about what to do if the pregnancy does cause complications – for example, with a page of “Bed-Rest Boredom Relievers.” Medically up-to-date, psychologically savvy and intelligently presented, Your Pregnancy Week by Week remains the best guide available to a tremendously exciting, nerve-wracking, literally life-changing experience.

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