I’ve always been a bit of a nerd. I love learning, and I love things that are cheesy and silly. So it should be no surprise to me that, as I’m finishing up my last semester of grad school, I am now relating my pregnancy to things I’m learning in school…in my research methods class.
In occupational therapy we talk about EBP: Evidence-Based Practice. We want to make sure that the interventions that we use with our clients are backed up by evidence. And not just heartwarming stories of things that people did that made them feel better after a stroke or an unexpected life-changing accident. Real, solid evidence with good study designs, limited confounders, and generalizable results. We’ve learned that RCT’s (randomized control trials) are the gold standard in experimental research, and that systematic reviews are at the top of the research hierarchy, pooling and examining lots of studies in order to make a strong case with a collective result.
So, I started thinking. What if I had an evidence-based pregnancy? What if I actually looked into the evidence myself? I mean, there are always pregnancy books and blogs and random internet news articles to tell you what’s good and bad during pregnancy. But why not just go to the source of the evidence? I mean, I basically have unlimited access to any kind of evidence I want since I’m currently a student and USC pays subscription fees in order for their library (and, consequently, their students) to have access to tens of thousands of research journals.
What would I want to start with? I’m a student. Caffeine it is.
So I looked up a systematic review evaluating caffeine use and pregnancy. What I found shocked me, actually. Most pregnancy resources I’ve read have advised that pregnant women stick to between 100-200 milligrams a day of caffeine, if they’re going to consume any at all. That’s like 1-2 cups of average-strength coffee per day. This review, though, basically found that up to 400 milligrams a day was fine. Interesting. Not that I’m going to start drinking 4 cups of coffee per day. But still.
So what next? I miss my occasional glass of wine. So let’s do alcohol and pregnancy. Of course, we all know the common rule of thumb when it comes to drinking while you’re pregnant — don’t do it. But in the past few years, it seems that all of my pregnant friends’ doctors have told them that an occasional glass of wine with dinner is just fine. Maybe even encouraged, depending on the person and her specific medical situation. This shocked me when I first heard about it, and I thought there was no way this could be true. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting to find when I looked up a systematic review of mild to moderate alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The review said that it’s basically fine, but that there are some mixed results, it depends on the person’s specific case, and we need more research. Not too surprising there.
My third and most recent search related to something I’ve been doing a lot this semester: sitting with my laptop. I have always secretly reasoned to myself that, reproductively speaking, it’s probably not the healthiest thing for women to sit with computers on their laps. I know research has shown that lap-based laptop use has been linked to decreased fertility in men (due to increasing the temperature of their…yeah), but I wanted to know if anything has been studied about women. I mean, aren’t there some sort of invisible, harmful, computer vibes that emanate in coordination with that low humming noise? To my chagrin, I didn’t find anything about pregnant women and laptop use. But I did find a study about prenatal and postnatal exposure to cell phones. This study found that with increased cell phone exposure, both prenatally and postnatally, children were more likely to later develop hyperactivity and learning disorders during the preschool years. But it is important to explicitly state the age-old research mantra (as they did at the end of the article): CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION. There are several reasons why the results may have turned out this way, most of which I’m sure you could come up with on your own.
So that’s it thus far. Caffeine, alcohol, and cell phones. Straight from the horse’s mouth. What else should I look into to further my evidence-based pregnancy? Suggestions welcome.