Pregnancy – “Rules of the Game”

Congratulations, you’re pregnant! Now for the barrage of all the things you NEED to do or NOT do while pregnant. Sound familiar? In our current society, it’s commonplace that when a woman announces she is expecting for a lot of advice to follow – and I mean A LOT! Some of these tips are sought after, such as health information from an obstetrician, while other suggestions might not be solicited, such as from well-meaning friends and family and even strangers. With all the guidance and lack of reasoning or information to back it, this can be a very stressful time, especially for a first-time expectant mother. This article is an attempt to explain the WHY behind some of the recommendations your obstetrician might suggest throughout your pregnancy.

Why is it recommended to take a prenatal vitamin while pregnant?

While eating a balanced diet that’s rich in vitamins and minerals is certainly the best way to keep healthy in pregnancy, a healthy diet alone may not suffice. Compared to a standard daily multivitamin, prenatal vitamins contain higher levels of certain nutrients that a growing baby requires – such as folic acid, calcium, and iron. These vitamins assist with proper development and studies suggest they help reduce the risk of birth defects. DHA and EPA are omega-3 fats that are important in your baby’s brain development. It’s true that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing though, so it’s important not to take more than the recommended amount of your daily vitamin to prevent harmful effects on your body.

Pregnancy

Why should I quit smoking while pregnant?

Smoking while pregnant can lead to lower birth weight, increased risk of placental abruption (placenta detaching from the uterus too early), increased risk of preterm delivery, and greater risk for learning disabilities. Children born to women who smoke are also more likely to try smoking at a young age and become smokers themselves. It’s best to quit before you conceive, but if not, then as early in pregnancy as possible.

Will I hurt the baby if I am intimate with my partner while pregnant?

Sex during pregnancy is fine as long as you do not have a complicating factor, such as placenta previa (placenta covering the cervix) or cervical shortening.

Can I have a glass of wine with dinner while pregnant?

The truth is that there is no standardized safe level of alcohol consumption while pregnant and that’s why we recommend avoiding it completely while pregnant. Alcohol can impact a baby’s development and lead to low birth weight, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems.

Do I have to forego the gym and “take it easy” now that I am pregnant?

Definitely not! In fact, regular exercise is considered healthy for pregnancy and can combat many issues that may arise during pregnancy, such as insomnia, muscle pain, excessive weight gain, and mood swings. It can also help your body prepare for labor and bounce back to your normal routine after delivery.

Can I eat sushi while pregnant?

Raw and undercooked meat and eggs can carry risk of foodborne illnesses, such as listeriosis and toxoplasmosis. These bacteria can cause serious complications for a growing baby and can lead to severe birth defects and even miscarriage. Thus, better to avoid completely.

Can I eat other fish and seafood while pregnant?

Yes! Seafood is loaded with vitamins and minerals, such as omega-3 fats, zinc, and iron. Avoid undercooked or raw seafood for the above-mentioned reasons. Also avoid fish that may contain high levels of mercury as these may be harmful to baby’s brain. Typically, the bigger the fish, the higher the mercury content. Eat no more than 12 oz of fish per week to limit the total amount of mercury consumed.

Can I eat deli sandwiches while pregnant?

As with raw and undercooked meat, deli meats (including hot dogs, sausages, smoked salmon, and other cured meats) can carry listeriosis and toxoplasmosis. Thus, if you are craving a deli sandwich while pregnant, make sure to heat your meat first at a high temperature to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination.

Can I sit in the hot tub while pregnant?

Though certainly relaxing, the high heat temperature of hot tubs, jacuzzis, and saunas can be dangerous to a pregnancy. High temperatures may lead to birth defects and increase risk of miscarriage. It can also lead to dehydration which can cause issues in pregnancy, such as preterm contractions.

Is it safe to get the flu vaccine while pregnant?

By all means, pregnant woman who do not have any contraindications to receiving the flu vaccine, SHOULD get the vaccine in pregnancy. Despite the common myth, you CANNOT get the flu from the flu vaccine. If you were to contract influenza while pregnant, the risk of severe complications, such as pneumonia and death, are much higher while pregnant than while not pregnant. Thus, the vaccine is recommended to not only protect baby, but mother too.

Do I have to give up my morning cup of joe while pregnant?

While caffeine does travel through the placenta and can increase your baby’s heart rate, you can safely consume up to 200 mg of caffeine daily while pregnant.

So, while you may want to skip the triple-shot latte from Starbucks, you can certainly safely consume 1-2 cups of coffee per day while pregnant.

Now that I’m pregnant, I must “eat for two” right?

Wrong! Gaining too much weight while pregnant can be harmful to both you and your pregnancy. During your first trimester, you only need about an extra 100 calories per day to support your growing baby. By the third trimester, this increases to an approximate 300 additional calories per day.

Do I have to avoid my cat now that I am pregnant?

You can pet your furry friend all you like, but avoid cleaning the litter box while pregnant. Feline waste can contain toxoplasmosis, which can be detrimental to your developing fetus. Toxoplasma can cause major birth defects and health issues such as seizures and mental disabilities, as well as miscarriage/stillbirth.

Pregnancy

Should I avoid the dentist now that I am pregnant?

While it’s recommended to hold off on routine x-rays, it’s important to continue to see your dentist while pregnant for general oral hygiene.

Do I have to change my beauty routine now that I’m pregnant?

While inhaling strong chemicals should be avoided in pregnancy, generally speaking, it’s considered safe to get your nails and hair done, including with hair perms and dye. And yes, you can still get your nether region waxed while pregnant.

Why do I have to sleep on my side while pregnant?

Theoretically, laying flat on your back can put too much pressure on your vena cava, a major deep abdominal vein, and affect blood flow to the baby. If you wake up to find yourself on your back, don’t panic. Just flip back to your side and go back to sleep.

And there you have it! Hopefully this helps answer some of the whys behind the sometimes odd-sounding recommendations of pregnancy. Don’t be afraid to ask your obstetrics provider for the reasoning behind their suggestions and perhaps other advice you may receive while pregnant. It’s always best to be informed and part of the decision making when following the certain “rules of the game”. Overall, this will lead to a healthier, happier, less stressful pregnancy.


Erica Stockwell DO MBA FACOG

Obstetrician and Gynocologist

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