Anthopoulos said. Or consider the case of the killer hiccups.
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Late in the pregnancy of Stephanie Goldsborough, one of Dr. Horowitz's patients, her stomach began to pulse with rhythmic little jerks. She referred to her copy of "What to Expect," which cautioned that a baby's hiccups could indicate a knotted or tangled umbilical cord. Panic-stricken, she and her husband visited their doctor, who gently reminded the couple that hiccups are generally not life-threatening. Heidi Murkoff, one of the original authors of "What to Expect" and now chief custodian of the franchise, acknowledged that the hiccup warning -- which she recently removed in response to reader complaints -- "was a mistake.
Murkoff added. She, her mother and sister, wrote the book in the early 's to reassure women who felt caught between obstetricians, who "hadn't gotten the memo yet that they weren't God," Ms.
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Murkoff said, and natural-childbirth types who frowned on epidurals, let alone Caesarean sections. The first edition was relatively light on disaster scenarios, but as the popularity of "What to Expect" grew, Ms. Murkoff and her co-authors heard from women who had suffered complications and wanted to know why this supposedly comprehensive guide ignored their conditions. The authors remedied the situation in editions published in and , and now the franchise must adjust itself again, Ms.
Murkoff allowed, to temper some harsh impressions. Murkoff, whose mother died and whose sister is no longer involved, recently made a decisive change in the guts of the franchise: its famously rigorous nutritional guidelines, the Best Odds Diet, elaborated on in an often-reprinted spinoff, "What to Eat When You're Expecting.
The trouble with the diet, many critics say, started with its name. Saintly eating habits, the authors implied, could improve a baby's prospects -- true in some cases but not with impossible-to-control variables like genetic defects. Kimberly Harney, a clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford Medical School. Aware of the criticism, Ms. Murkoff retired the Best Odds name with the third edition of "What to Expect" three years ago, but a practical problem remained.
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Even those women with extraodinary powers of discipline, let alone the hormone-addled, morning-sick majority, could hardly follow the program, which involved regular doses of flaxseed and deemed bran muffins an indulgence. Murkoff said of what she calls the "whole wheatier than thou" approach. But old "What to Expect" volumes never seem to die.
Even though Ms. Murkoff adjusts them with each printing, meaning every four to six weeks, the books have become so totemic that they are passed on and on. As a result miscalculations like the hiccups fallacy and phrases like the Best Odds Diet endure.
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The book still makes much of its just-us-gals origins. It enjoys the distinction of being the most-read pregnancy guide in the United States. How is it that a wildly successful guide could garner such a lukewarm response?
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Well, tastes vary of course, but one reason might be that Yarrow and presumably the friends she consulted is a millennial. And this—as many marketers have already learned through personal experience—changes things considerably.
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Which might be another way of saying: Guidebooks for moms are just that—something mom had in her dresser, while the kids have simply moved on. And yet dismissing What to Expect as a hanger-on from the pre-internet era would be unfair and misleading, because What to Expect has in fact moved on.
Though some Americans still associate the brand name with those hefty paperbacks the current edition is pages , What to Expect has morphed into a diversified, multiplatform media brand that not only reaches 16 million people per month, it reaches 90 percent of them via mobile devices. The community now includes 18 million women, and a new post appears on the site every three seconds.
Not all the moms are millennials of course, but the diversity and volume of content the community creates is totally in keeping with Gen Y tastes.
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Yet, even as What to Expect has diversified to appeal to the latest generation of moms—and even though it remains the dominant source of pregnancy information out there—the mores of the millennial generation have clearly changed the pregnancy-information game. In , New Yorker Heidi Murkoff was navigating the early days of her first pregnancy with no idea of how to handle it.
When Murkoff went looking for an informational book to read, she found … not much.