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the hidden cost of hindsight

*Updated to add that this post was quoted in part by the New York Times's Motherlode blog. Also, I highly suggest reading my toxicologist friend Susie's post which explains the data and statistics involved in the study, and why some reporting about it is inaccurate and/or overblown.

A study published yesterday in JAMA Pediatrics shows a strong correlation between acetaminophen use during pregnancy and ADHD diagnoses and behavioral problems. More than 64,000 children and mothers were studied over a six year period in Denmark, and were assessed across three major criteria: parental reports of their 7 year old children, hospital diagnoses of HKD (hyperkinetic disorders), and ADHD prescriptions.

It turns out that not only were children of mothers who had used acetaminophen during pregnancy more likely to have HKD, take ADHD medication, or have ADHD-like behaviors, but that in mothers who used it more frequently and/or during more than one trimester, the exposure response trends were even greater. The study's authors concluded "Maternal acetaminophen use during pregnancy is associated with a higher risk for HKDs and ADHD-like behaviors in children" but also say more research is needed.

One of the few pain reliever / fever reducer over-the-counter medicines long considered "safe" for pregnant women, acetaminophen has not actually been categorized by the FDA for pregnancy risk. And while there is no formal advisory for pregnant women to avoid acetaminophen as of yet, many will likely err on the side of caution and abstain until further research can provide more clarity. 

But for those women like myself who have already taken acetaminophen during pregnancy and have a child or children already diagnosed with ADHD, this study may provoke self-recrimination and severe guilt: if only I had not been so selfish and powered through those headaches drug-free, my child might not have this problem today. If only I'd given up my personal comfort in the face of vague, potential threats to my unborn baby, he wouldn't be in therapy, on medication, and at a disadvantage. It's a bitter pill to swallow, then and now.

The more we carefully curate our prenatal choices, the more we open ourselves up to scrutiny: everything becomes an opportunity for blame and second-guessing. The more items we add to the knocked up no-no's list, the more we cling to the idea we can control health outcomes through sheer will. The more we try to gestate perfect babies, the less tolerance we have for those that are imperfect, or for the people who made them.

And for those who say ADHD isn't real, or is only the manifestation of poor parenting skills, or is caused by refined sugar, or gluten, or video games, or vaccinations? It's unclear which side of the debate has more fuel now. Further study is required.


XXL's gaydar tracking gender inequity

In another episode of I Want To Love It, Norway's sporting goods company XXL made a mostly brilliant jab at Russia's homophobic stance on the Olympics. I kept waiting for the female lead to bust out with an athletic feat topping the already absurd shenanigans of all the men who vie for her attention, but the twist at the end gave her a gold merely for being ornamental. Love the pro-gay messaging, hate the objectification, and will add it to my collection of well-intended paving stones.



I want to love this Pantene ad that juxtaposes how the same qualities in men and women are perceived differently (persuasive/pushy, smooth/showoff, boss/bossy, etc) and I do appreciate such a clever visualization that calls out these everyday inequities. But, much like Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty or Secret's Mean Stinks campaign, it is still an ad selling beauty products to women; a newer, smarter twist on the same old trope that we need to improve (shine, smooth, de-stink) our physical selves to be considered acceptable in the world. The ad may not be exploiting women, but it's certainly exploiting a longstanding women's issue.


paging edward gorey

As frequently happens when one is in possession of an infant, I was thinking of new, suitably wry and witty topics for an abecedarium. Why not "don'ts" for writers? The first lines nearly write themselves...

A is for Alliteration, call on it with care,
B is for Bathos, do not get ensnared.
C is for Cliche, flat and overused,
D is for Dialect, commonly abused. 
But then there is the problem of illustrations. Alas.



free to be... straight

The new back-to-school television commercial from Target reached straight into the center of my raised-in-the-70's heart, as three identical girls all dressed in identical boring uniforms run the cheery gauntlet of the first day back at school, adding color and quirk here and there, finally emerging as brightly-hued, chipper individuals, thanks, one presumes, to the bounty of festive clothing and accessories available at Target. But what really makes the ad — the breezy silk bow on top, if you will — is the title song from "Free To Be, You and Me", a musical for kids released in 1972 by the Ms. Foundation for Women that celebrated individuality and selfhood.

I loved this musical as a kid, wore the grooves out on my 33" vinyl copy played over and over again on the little brown Fisher Price phonograph-in-a-suitcase. And thirty years later, I bought the CD for my kids, who, wee modern sophisticates that they are, were underwhelmed. Despite the current generation's lack of appreciation, Target's ad agency showed unrelenting genius by choosing music that would have such appeal to the purchasing "gatekeeper" (generally this is understood to be a mom who buys stuff for her family, though here's a more-than-token shout out for all you consumerist dad-types out there, too) with a song recalling the Marlo Thomas-prompted, earnest self-acceptance of their youth.

What they may not have intended, however, was the ad release coinciding with a massive petition against Target for making political donations that feature a money trail leading straight to anti-gay organizations. The dissonance, cognitive and otherwise, here is palpable: acceptance of every individual and his or her potential vs. that hackneyed old kill-the gays, not-in-my-hetero-backyardism. Target, you can't have it both ways. We're too smart for this shell game — don't sell us with snippets of our starry-eyed youth with one hand, and support hatred and vitriol with the other. We've all heard of greenwashing by now, but this? I won't go so far as to call it gaywashing, but it comes pretty damned close.