Oprah calls him “America’s Doctor.” He has his own talk show. With Dr. Michael Roizen, he’s the author of the best-selling YOU series of health books, CDs and DVDs. Now, in YOU: Having a Baby, Dr. Mehmet Oz tackles pregnancy.

Unlike the pregnancy books that “tell you what to do,” YOU: Having a Baby seeks to “explain why.” This “ ‘just say know’ mantra” is the book’s strength. As in the other YOU books, Drs. Roizen and Oz make the science of the body clear, accessible and fascinating. The first five chapters alone contain more useful information about genetics, placentas, Rh factor, miscarriages and brain development than the entire pregnancy section at your neighborhood bookstore.

Alongside the science, YOU: Having a Baby provides the usual pregnancy advice. Pregnant women should sleep on their sides, exercise, gain a moderate amount of weight and talk to their babies in utero. There is a diet plan with recipes, a workout routine (with cutesy exercise names like “Car Seat Reaches” and “Soccer Mom”), descriptions of anesthesia options for labor and lists of what to purchase for your new baby and pack in your hospital bag.

What distinguishes these fairly straightforward pieces of advice is the book’s emphasis on the “cutting-edge field” of epigenetics, or how environment shapes the expression of genes. According to Drs. Roizen and Oz, a pregnant woman’s actions program the genes of her unborn child, determining everything from future weight to intelligence. This means that “your responsibility for creating a healthy environment for your offspring is bigger than you may have even thought.”

For some women, this exhortation will be reassuring; for others, it may feel burdensome and oppressive. But all women can certainly benefit from learning about how and why their bodies and babies experience the dramatic physical and mental developments of pregnancy and birth.

Rebecca Steinitz is a writer in Arlington, Massachusetts.

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