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Drinking During Pregnancy: Emily Oster, Author of 'Expecting Better', Explains Why It Might Be OK (VIDEO)

08/22/2013 02:34 pm ET | Updated Aug 22, 2013

Emily Oster, an associate professor at the University of Chicago, found out she was pregnant at a work conference. So, she was faced with a dilemma early on: to drink, or not to drink? After all, her colleagues would probably chat at a happy hour later that night.

Like many moms-to-be, Oster wrote in her book, Expecting Better: Why The Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong –- And What You Really Need To Know, that she quickly turned to various websites for advice. Yet her findings indicated conclusions all across the board.

In her book, she addresses all kind of pregnancy myths using her statistical background, and delves into the question of whether or not pregnant women can drink while expecting. Her conclusion: Yes, in moderation.

“Although all the pregnancy organizations in the United States recommend a policy of abstinence, similar organizations in different countries indicate occasional drinking is fine,” she writes.

She explains that after sifting through reliable studies, a couple drinks per week is fine in the first trimester and no more than one 4-ounce drink a day in the last two trimesters.

So why do some studies turn their back on alcohol completely? Oster writes that the quality of the medical research is varied and sometimes flawed. Because of these discrepancies, she believes that large organizations sit on the cautious side. It’s easier to tell women to quit drinking cold turkey than to risk them having one too many.

On the flip side of the debate, many healthcare professionals strongly discourage drinking during pregnancy all together.

Dietician Elizabeth Ward, who joined HuffPost Live to discuss the topic, is one of them. The problem is that the definition of "occasional" is not "hard and fast," she explained. "What is 'a' drink?" she asked.

Christina Chambers, an associate professor in the department of family and preventative medicine at the University of California, San Diego, echoed that idea last year. She said in a statement that while binge drinking is the riskiest for fetuses, there is no measurable threshold for any amount of alcohol.

“We emphasize that a 'safe' amount of alcohol that any individual woman can drink while pregnant is impossible to establish,” Chambers told the Huffington Post.

During the segment, Oster clarified that her book does specify appropriate amounts for that reason. "I do think people do worry that if you tell women they can have one glass of wine, then they will have two, they will have three." But, that's no reason to "lie" to women about what the evidence says, she concluded.

And so, doctors have moved away from the, "Do this, don’t do that, end of story," approach, Dr. Jeffrey L. Ecker, the chairman of the committee on obstetrics practice for A.C.O.G., told The New York Times. Now, expecting patients and doctors are adapting to a shared “decision-making model.”

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