You want so much to have a healthy baby. You may worry about each thing you eat, drink or are exposed to. However, very few things have been proven harmful to your baby. Most are okay in moderation. If you have concerns beyond the common ones covered here, talk to your doctor or nurse midwife. If you think you have been exposed to a harmful substance, talk to your provider or contact the Teratogen Information Service.
Tooth decay, gum disease and other oral problems harm more than your smile. Dental health can affect your overall well-being. As soon as you know or believe you are pregnant, have a dental exam and tell your dentist. Dental X-rays are safe as long as your abdomen is shielded. It is best to delay X-rays until after week 13.
Brush and floss at least once a day. This keeps your gums healthy and helps prevent tooth decay. Gums may swell while you are pregnant. This is common and normal in most cases. Eat a well-balanced diet. The care you give your teeth maintains them and also insures your baby's health.
This is a special time in your life. Being pregnant is thrilling. It can also be tough some days. We want to make sure your mind stays as healthy as your body. To do this we will screen you for signs or symptoms of depression.
Our screening survey measures your level of risk for depression. This screening will occur several times while you are pregnant and afterwards. Ask any member of your care team if you need help or would like to know more.
Sexual intercourse & intimacy
Even if you long for closeness, you may wonder how it might affect your baby. Both increased and decreased sex drive are normal during these months. Talk with your partner about your feelings. If you are healthy and having a normal pregnancy, you may have sex unless your doctor or nurse midwife tells you not to.
Your baby is cushioned by amniotic fluid. As your belly grows, intercourse may become uncomfortable. Try other positions or new ways to express feelings for each other. If you have questions, bleed, feel pain or think you are leaking amniotic fluid, consult your provider as soon as you can.
All people experience mental and physical stress as part of life. Too much stress, however, may cause various symptoms such as headaches, depression and weight gain. Stress may have an impact on how well your body can fight off infection or disease. While you are pregnant, stress should be minimized to the best of your ability. Depending on how much stress your pregnancy adds to your existing load, you may need to get extra help from your spouse or someone else so you can get the rest you need.
If your pregnancy is normal, you may travel until the last month. Our concern is that you may have your baby far from the doctor or midwife who knows you best. Airplanes, trains and buses are often more comfortable for long distance travel. You can get up and move around. Sitting for a long time in a car may tire you and cause leg cramps and/or backaches. These problems become worse in the last month or so.
Air: Flying during pregnancy is generally safe. In the U.S., pregnant women are allowed to fly up until 36 weeks of pregnancy; be sure to check with your airline. You should consider getting an aisle seat for more room and to make it easier to walk around and get to the bathroom. Be sure to get up and walk around at least once an hour, and drink plenty of fluids to reduce the risk of blood clots forming in your legs.
Sea: If you have never been on a cruise, it may not be the best time to take one. Travel by sea may upset your stomach even if you are not pregnant and may be more uncomfortable if you are. If you do decide to go on a cruise, check what medical care will be available to you and what emergency measures your cruise is prepared to employ. Also in the U.S., cruise lines allow passengers to cruise until 28 weeks; check with your individual cruise line.
Ground: Here are some ways to protect yourself and your baby in the car.
- Always wear your seat belt. A lap-shoulder belt protects you better than a lap belt alone.
- Push the lap belt as far down as you can beneath your belly. Check to make sure it stays low. Lap and shoulder belts should be snug. If you are wearing a heavy coat, open it. Pull it away from your belly so the lap part of the belt fits right.
- Sit as far back as you can from the steering wheel. Hitting the steering wheel in a crash could injure you. The biggest danger to an unborn baby in a crash is an injured mother. Even after a minor crash, get checked at an emergency room. Even if you do not seem to be hurt, your unborn baby, uterus or placenta could be seriously injured.
- Let others do most of the driving during your last few months. Avoid trips that are not really needed. Sit in the back seat of the car. This is a much safer place to ride.
- You may have some swelling during your trip. Raise your legs if you can. Pack juices and water instead of high sodium soft drinks.
Work during pregnancy
Generally, women who are pregnant may continue to work during their pregnancy. Some women are able to work right up until they are ready to deliver, while others may need to cut back on their work schedule or stop completely before their due date. Whether you can work during pregnancy or not depends on your health, the health of the baby and the type of job you have. The American Medical Association recommends the following for working pregnant women:
- Take a break every few hours.
- Take a longer meal break every four hours.
- Drink plenty of fluids through the work day.
- Vary work positions continuously, from sitting to standing and walking.
- Minimize heavy lifting and bending.
Lifting: Weight gain during pregnancy adds strain to the back. Proper lifting can help reduce strain and prevent injury. When lifting, keep in mind the following recommendations:
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Tuck in the buttocks.
- Bend at the knees.
- Lift with the arms and legs, not the back.
- Limit the amount and weight of the items lifted.
Exposure to environmental hazards: Some agents may pose a threat to the health of the baby and most of the time, problems occur with prolonged exposure. These include exposure to metals such as mercury or lead, exposure to solvents such as household cleaning agents or pesticides, or radiation or radioactive waste. Get information on possible toxic substances present at your workplace. Find out if these are at toxic levels and if the workplace is adequately ventilated and workers use protective devices. Radiation from computers, TVs and microwaves is called non-ionizing radiation and is not harmful.
Having 1 or 2 cups of coffee or cans of pop with caffeine has not been shown to cause problems. High caffeine intake (5 cups of coffee) is linked with increased miscarriage risk. Despite studies that warn about the effects of caffeine, moderate use does not put your baby at risk.
Your hair may not hold color or a perm the way it would if you were not pregnant. You can still have your hair done. It is normal to lose some hair during and after pregnancy.
Herbal and homeopathic remedies
Not all "natural" products are safe while you are pregnant or nursing your baby. Ask your provider before you use them.
Prescribed and over-the-counter medicine
Be sure your provider knows all the things you take for any reason. This includes prescribed and over-the-counter medicine, vitamins, herbs and diet supplements. Some may not be healthy for you or your baby. Others may be required. Your doctor or nurse midwife is the best judge of what you should and should not take while you are pregnant.
For mild to moderate pain relief, you can safely use acetaminophen (Tylenol®) now and then. Ibuprofen may be taken now and then between week 6 and week 32. For some, it seems to work better than acetaminophen. It does not cause birth defects if you take it during the first 3 months. Frequent use of ibuprofen is not advised at any time. Do not take aspirin without talking to your provider. To see a longer list of safe over-the-counter medicines, see Discomforts & Illnesses.
You can paint or be around someone who is painting if there is good air exchange. Open a window or turn on a fan to keep fumes from building up.
If your care requires X-rays, your doctor or nurse midwife will review risks with you before writing an order. In most cases, benefits of X-rays far outweigh their risks. Make sure the person who takes X-rays is aware that you are pregnant. Dental X-rays are safe for you and your baby if your belly is shielded with a lead apron.