As I’ve got a couple of friends who are pregnant at the mo (I originally typed ‘As I’ve got a couple of friends pregnant at the mo’, which a) gives the completely wrong impression; and b) is biologically impossible anyway), this guest post seems appropriate. I might get pregnant just so I can get out of cat litter tray duty (not really).
Congratulations! And take a deep breath. You’re pregnant, and your mothering instincts have already kicked in, which means you are already worrying about health hazards for the new life that you’re creating. While it is true that pregnant women need to pay close attention to their health and avoid certain substances that cause no trouble for women who are not pregnant, it is also true that overwhelming stress can have negative health consequences for the expectant mother and her developing child.
So, take some deep breaths, learn what to do and what to avoid during pregnancy, and bookmark this page so you can return for occasional reminders. Then, enjoy the experience of becoming a mother!
A couple of important notes:
· As with any health-related information you find on the Internet, you should check this information with your OB/GYN.
· Many of these pregnancy health precautions are especially important during the first trimester, when many critical stages of foetal development occur.
· If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, then it is essential that you speak to your OB/GYN about any additional cautions you should be aware of.
And, a final suggestion: If you and your family do not yet have a good life insurance plan, insuring both the mother and father of the child to be, now is an excellent time to purchase one. You can quite easily create a trust in your to-be-born child’s name, into which the life insurance proceeds will flow, in a worst-case scenario. You may find, as many expectant mothers do, that taking this precautionary step allows them to ward off many of the ‘what if’ worries that keep them awake in the wee hours. Compare policies here and continue into parenthood with a little more peace of mind!
Avoid this entirely. To date, no medical research has found a ‘safe’ amount of alcohol that may be consumed during pregnancy. Foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is one of the most common known causes of serious physical and mental birth defects. Developing babies cannot expel alcohol from their systems as easily as adults can, and the lingering alcohol can wreak havoc on the foetus’s developing central nervous system.
Avoid saccharin, educate yourself about aspartame, and enjoy other sweeteners in moderation. Saccharin can penetrate the placenta and remain in the baby’s tissue, and some medical studies showed that it caused cancer in laboratory animals. Other artificial sweeteners, like sucralose and stevioside are approved in moderation. Aspartame is okay occasionally unless you have a rare genetic disease called phenylketonuria (PKU). If you’re craving something sweet—consider indulging in a bit of the real thing instead.
Avoid these entirely. Pesticides and insecticides are considered poisons and can result in miscarriage, premature delivery and birth defects. If you must use a bug repellent, apply it to your clothes, socks and shoes rather than directly to your skin.
Limit your intake to one or two cups per day. Overconsumption of caffeine has been linked to increased risk of miscarriage, as well as other complications of pregnancy. Remember that caffeine is not just in coffee, but in colas, black teas, green teas, and chocolate as well. Medical studies suggest limiting caffeine intake to 200 – 300 mg per day. One standard cup of brewed coffee contains about 120 mg of caffeine. The average chocolate bar contains 5 – 30 mg. So pick your indulgence and enjoy it!
Cat litter box
Avoid this entirely. Consider it a win in exchange for losing access to all those yummy foods and drinks during pregnancy. You don’t have to keep away from the kitty, just the litter box, as cat faeces can spread a serious infection called toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis can cause babies to be born prematurely and can also cause serious brain and eye defects.
Minimize your exposure to industrial and household chemicals, including cleaning products and paint. However, if you can work in a well-ventilated space don’t worry yourself overly about common cleaning products.
Enjoy moderate, low-impact physical activity. Avoid sports that could result in a fall since that could cause bleedings or miscarriage. Also avoid activities that involve jarring movements or quick changes in direction (like tennis and snowboarding). After the first trimester, avoid weight lifting and sit ups. Aqua fitness is a highly recommended form of exercise for pregnant women. The gravitational displacement of water makes fairly rigorous exercise comfortable until quite late in pregnancy, so long as you take care to not overheat.
Foods and drinks
· Fish and shellfish: Avoid raw fish and shellfish. Avoid fish known to contain high mercury levels, such as tuna steak, king mackerel, swordfish, tilefish and shark. Other types of fish and well-cooked shellfish are an important part of a healthy pregnancy diet, as they supply essential omega-3 fatty acids and protein. Try to limit your fish and shellfish intake to two meals per week, and only one meal of tuna per week.
· Unpasteurized foods and drinks: Avoid all unpasteurized foods and drinks, such as dairy products and ciders. Common unpasteurized cheeses include Mexican queso fresco, Camembert, goat cheese, feta cheese, the blue veined cheeses, and Brie.
· Raw eggs: Avoid raw eggs entirely, including foods like tiramisu, unbaked cookie dough, eggnog, Caesar dressing and homemade ice cream.
· Patés and meat spreads: Avoid these entirely.
· Processed and deli meats: Avoid these entirely, whether freshly sliced or pre-packaged. Meat slicers and the machinery used in meat processing plants can contain food-borne bacteria like listeriosis, salmonella, and toxoplasmosis, all of which are highly dangerous to an unborn child.
Probably safe, but serious worriers may wish to avoid during first trimester. Although few studies have addressed hair dye specifically, the vast majority of obstetricians and gynaecologists label hair dye safe in pregnancy. If your stylist uses heavy chemicals, though, you may want to wait until after the major neurological development of the first trimester is complete.
Medications, prescription and over-the-counter
Be very careful and consult your OB/GYN before taking any medication at all, even seemingly benign meds that you took without a care before you were pregnant. For example, pregnant women must avoid ibuprofen and aspirin because both medications have been proven to cause harm to developing babies. Acetaminophen is generally safe, but check with your GP before taking it. The same goes for cold and flu medicines, sleep aids, other pain relievers, and anti-nausea medication. Your physician will have plenty of suggestions for alternatives, so do not despair.
Avoid hot tubs, saunas, electric blankets, sunbed tanners, self-tanners, and very hot baths. Generally, avoid activities that would raise your core temperature above 38.9°C. Overheating your body during the first trimester increases the risk of neural tube deficits in the foetus and miscarriage. During the second and third trimesters, it can result in dehydration, which can easily lead to more serious health effects in mother and baby.
Avoid these entirely. Need we say more? As with alcohol and Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, babies can be born addicted to the recreational drugs their mothers ingested while pregnant. Recreational drugs can also cause serious birth defects.
Enjoy it. Not only does sexual intercourse do no harm to mother or baby, traditional medicine states unequivocally that having sex at the end of pregnancy can convince a late baby to make its appearance. Other than getting creative with positioning towards the end of the nine months, you may enjoy sex as often or as little as you like.
Avoid this entirely and avoid second hand smoke as well. Smoking is one of the main preventable risk factors associated with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the terrifying event of a newborn baby dying silently while sleeping. Babies whose mothers smoked while pregnant are also at higher risk for childhood asthma, low birth weight, and stillbirth. If you need to quit smoking, speak to your GP about getting support with a quitting plan and considering trying an electric cigarette.
Get the (inactivated) flu jab and the whooping cough (Tdap) jab; wait on others unless your doctor says otherwise. The flu and whooping cough vaccines are important to protect your baby’s health. With other, live, vaccines the risk is that the virus itself could be transmitted to the developing infant who has no ability to cope with it. Other vaccines considered safe during pregnancy if medically necessary include rabies, meningitis and hepatitis B. The Tdap vaccine also protects against tetanus and diphtheria.
Follow your GP’s recommendations. You will be asked before any x-ray whether you are pregnant. If an x-ray is important to your health or your baby’s health, your physician will recommend the procedure. Limited exposure to medically necessary x-rays is generally safe, so long as you wear a lead apron to cover your uterus from all angles.