5 Science Resources Every New Pregnant Mom Should Know About
If you are a science nerd, maybe you already know about these. But when I was once a first-time pregnant mom, I wasn’t even aware some of these existed. Even with a husband in medical school, and a doula, I still struggled to find easily accessible resources that weren’t pinterest blog articles to answer questions like, “why wouldn’t somebody circumcise their son?” or “does pitocin really cause postpartum depression?” So here is a list, by NO means comprehensive, of resources where you can turn to verify those myths and rumors you see in memes on instagram, or that wives’ tale your auntie told you about.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has a handy FAQ section on their website for patients that give a basic overview of various questions about interventions, potential diagnoses and problems, and general pregnancy, birth, and postpartum stuff. They regularly update a journal with ‘practice bulletins’ (sorry, not available to the public, but if you want one, message me, and I can probably get you access to a specific topic) on all kinds of birth topics that are meant to advise ob/gyns on the latest recommendations on how best to practice, given updated scientific evidence. It’s a great place to go when your doctor says something that sounds made up (which, sometimes it is, tbh), and you want to find out if they’re for real. While there is some debate over their ‘opinion pieces’ on things like waterbirth and home birth, they are very pro-bodily-autonomy, and reiterate in their bulletins repeatedly that a woman has the right to informed consent and refusal. They even have a bulletin dedicated to what interventions should not be used routinely in order to reduce the risk of unnecessary primary cesareans.
The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews is considered the gold standard for how to conduct a scientific review of the available literature. Because the standard is high, often available evidence is excluded from topics relating to pregnancy, because tbh, there are a lot of areas that we can’t really do high-quality randomized controlled trials for, so this resource may not be very comprehensive. But, they do a nice job of summing up some topics in their ‘plain language’ summaries that pretty much tell you whether or not we have sufficient high-quality evidence to support a certain intervention or not (ex. Routine episiotomies or pitocin for preventing hemorrhage, or even doula support).
For all the things you can’t find elsewhere, you might be able to find an article abstract in the public medical library. Fair warning, however: an abstract does not give you a fair idea of whether or not the article is biased, whether its methodology is sound, or even if it really answers the question you have. Try and get access to the full text if you’re looking for evidence to back up a claim.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, similar to ACOG, has a journal that updates practice recommendations for pediatricians. They are pretty much the authority on the scientific consensus on safe sleep practices, circumcision, and vaccines for children. But, also similar to ACOG, some of their opinions have been questioned in the past as well, so it’s always a good idea to look into why any given recommendation was made, and evaluate the quality of the evidence it is based on.
This one is my absolute favorite. While this resource is a bit more blog-y than science-y, it still fits the bill, IMHO. Rebecca Dekker is an RN and a PhD. She conducts a team of researchers who gather evidence on a given popular birth-related topic, and put together ‘signature articles’ that work as a thorough systematic review of the available literature and its various weaknesses and strengths. Some of my favorite topics include the pain management series, the signature article on due dates, and most recently, an article on circumcision.
Well, there you have it. Hopefully you’re a little more prepared to face the onslaught of pinterest blogs and baby shower advice, with some scientific tools in your pocket. If you have a favorite science-based parenting resource you love or that you’ve come back to again and again, let me know about it in the comments!