Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies? A Review and a Giveaway!
I just finished reading the new book, Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies? by Jena Pincott. Before you jump to the conclusion that this is a completely fluffy book, consider the subtitle: “The Surprising Science of Pregnancy.” It turns out that this book is chock-full of science, some of it admittedly fluffy but some of it rock solid. I enjoyed the book and thought that you might, too. I tweeted Jena Pincott to see if she was interested in donating a copy for a giveaway, and she enthusiastically agreed.
(By the way – if you aren’t on Twitter and wonder what the point of it is, then this gives you a good example of why it is cool. I can take a break from the book I am reading and tweet the author a message. Within minutes, we’ve had a little conversation about her book, doing a giveaway, and remarked that our daughters were born just a few months apart and how much we are enjoying this age.)
So here we are – the first-ever giveaway on Science of Mom. I don’t know if I’ll make a habit of this, but I like the idea of reviewing books occasionally, and if I can put together a giveaway to share a book that I like with you, that seems like a win-win. Just to be perfectly clear, I purchased my own copy of Chocolate Lovers. The author is donating a copy of the book, but I haven’t received any compensation. I am not obligated in any way to write a positive review, but I also wouldn’t bother giving away a book or product that I didn’t like myself.
Formalities out-of-the-way, let me tell you what I think of Chocolate Lovers:
Chocolate Lovers is a book about the science of pregnancy, birth, parenting, and newborns. It focuses on understanding the magical transition to parenthood from a biological and evolutionary perspective. Pincott tackles old wives tales, quirky observations, and serious science. The book is by no means a comprehensive guide to pregnancy, but it is way more fun than any book I have read on the topic. It won’t explain every pregnancy symptom, but it will make you think about pregnancy as the product of millions of years of evolution. You will envision yourself as one of a long line of pregnant mothers, and Pincott will help you understand that your first trimester nausea probably happens for a reason.
The book is written in short sections, just one to two pages long, explaining each observation or theory. It is roughly organized in the chronology of pregnancy and birth, but there is no need to read it in any particular order. As Pincott says in her introduction, “I write with insomniac nights and waiting rooms in mind.” It turns out that Pincott wrote the book during her own pregnancy and the first few months of her daughter’s life, so I imagine this type of writing was also well-suited to her life at the time. It is also perfectly formatted for reading by a new mom, since I’m still doing most of my reading in two-page increments before I pass out at the end of the day.
Pincott does a beautiful job of weaving her own experiences and questions about pregnancy with her discoveries about the science behind it all. Her prose is easy to read, and she does a nice job of explaining complex concepts.
To give you some idea of the content of the book, here are some of my favorite sections:
- Why do pregnant women have more vivid dreams? Pincott covers several possible explanations. The hormonal shifts during pregnancy cause us to sleep more and spent more time in REM sleep, when dreams are more likely. We also wake more, enhancing our memories of dreams. Even more fascinating, all this dreaming may serve a purpose. It may help us to work through our fears and anxieties about childbirth and parenthood. Pincott describes several studies that found that women that dreamed more, especially those that had nightmares, had faster deliveries and lower risk of postpartum depression. Fascinating, no? Reading this section, I was reminded of my recurring pregnancy dreams of the baby being so small that I lost her in the bed covers and then so flat that I could put her away in a picture frame for safe-keeping. Yikes.
- Having more sex with the baby’s father before and during pregnancy may prevent preeclampsia. Sex exposes the mother to the father’s foreign proteins via his semen. This decreases the chances that the mother’s immune system will attack the placenta, which also carries the father’s proteins. Placenta-attack can cause preeclampsia, which can lead to miscarriage. As Pincott writes, “The body, when exposed to unfamiliar semen, may assume the timing of the pregnancy is not good. But repeated sex before and during pregnancy has what researchers call a “partner-specific protective effect.” It’s fascinating: preeclampsia, which is unique to humans, may have contributed to increased monogamy in our species.”
- Exercise during pregnancy may make the baby smarter. I ran across some of this research myself when I was writing my post on exercise in pregnancy and fetal fitness. Human studies on this have shown some cognitive benefits of exercise during pregnancy in babies and even 5-year-olds, but these are small studies subject to bias. Pincott also describes studies in rodents that offer more conclusive evidence of this effect.
- And yes, chocolate consumption during pregnancy is associated with babies with better temperament. This is fun research, but it is one of many examples in the book where the line between correlation and causation gets fuzzy. To her credit, Pincott is quick to point out that this relationship could be purely correlative. Women who eat more chocolate could be happier, more optimistic, and more likely to describe their babies as sweet. Or postnatal chocolate consumption may pass some beneficial compounds to the baby via breast milk. But Pincott also has fun speculating about potential causes for a direct chocolate effect, and I had fun speculating with her. Personally, I don’t mind having another reason to eat good chocolate during a future pregnancy.
There are other sections that are less surprising but equally fascinating on topics such as the effect of stress on the fetus (a little can be a good thing, too much is not), the importance of skin-to-skin contact right after birth, and the wonders of breast milk.
My one complaint about Chocolate Lovers is that I think it glosses over many of the limitations inherent in the research it describes. In the examples above, I’m quite sure that none of the research is conclusive, at least for humans, but reading about all the limitations of research is just not that much fun. Pincott instead focuses on the neatest interpretations of the science, and I’m sure that this is intentional. After all, she is writing for a broad audience, and this book is meant to be a fun read, not to provide strict guidance on pregnancy. Still, I had to groan a little when I read the following line, “An ancient remedy for eye infection is breast milk, raw. Like Lysol, it kills on contact.” Since I did in-depth research for my article on this topic, I know that there really isn’t conclusive evidence that breast milk works as a treatment for eye infections. Pincott’s confidence in it is surely more fun, though.
Chocolate Lovers is definitely an enjoyable read for the science-minded mama, and dads may welcome a better understanding of the weirdness of pregnancy as well. It is a refreshing break from the scolding of “What to Expect” and left me with a greater appreciation for pregnancy. Kind of made me want to do it all again!
Jena Pincott is giving a free copy of Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies? to one lucky Science of Mom reader! To enter, do any or all of the following (up to 4 entries per person):
1. Leave a comment here telling us what you love(d), hate(d), or found most surprising about pregnancy.
2. “Like” the Science of Mom Facebook page and leave an extra comment here to tell me that you did.
3. Subscribe to Science of Mom via email or RSS (see right-hand side of home page) and leave a comment here to let me know that you did.
4. Tweet about the giveaway with a link to this page (http://wp.me/p1SmF6-en) and mention @scienceofmom.
The giveaway will be open until Valentine’s Day (2/14/12), at which point BabyC will draw the name of the lucky winner!