When you are pregnant for the first time, it is normal to worry about some subjects. Future moms wonder if they can eat sushi, drink their morning coffee or change the cat’s litter box and they feel guilty when they paint a room! “What if…” Here is a little guide that will help you get your head around all that. What you must keep in mind is that you don’t have to stop living because you are pregnant but it is best for you and for your baby to slightly change your lifestyle and avoid common pitfalls.
Alcohol and tobacco
You must know by now that you should not drink and smoke but I will say it one more time because it is really important for your baby. In addition to causing developmental delays and health issues in your fetus, nicotine and alcohol can make your baby addicted, even in your belly. Don’t forget that if you smoke a cigarette or drink alcohol, your baby will take the same amount as you but your weight is not the same at all. Your baby’s dose will be much more concentrated than yours. Smoking also exposes your baby to second-hand smoke and it can be as toxic as the cigarette itself.
Coffee, Tea, and sodas
Doctors will tell you to avoid caffeine as much as possible. In short, your baby will absorb caffeine and if you drink too much coffee, your baby will become irritable and uncomfortable. Some doctors also say that high caffeine intakes can cause health issues to the fetus. Most doctors agree that it is reasonable to reduce your intake to one cup a day. If you are strong-willed and can give up altogether, it’s even better! The less coffee you drink, the better your baby will feel. Tea also contains caffeine so be careful! As for sodas, they are very sweet, make you gain more weight when consumed in high quantities and contain additives and colorants that are not natural at all. So be reasonable with soda too or try your best to forget them for nine months! Water and herbal teas are pregnant women’s best friends!
In general, you can eat almost anything but you must be careful with a few exceptions such as raw meat and fish. Avoid soft cheeses (Brie, Camembert, and blue cheese) as well as raw cheeses. It is recommended to choose hard cheeses instead, or cheeses made from pasteurized milk. Drinking pasteurized milk is also safer. It will help you avoid listeriosis. Listeriosis is not a common bacteria but it can be dangerous for your baby. I also suggest avoiding buffets… Cooked meats and pates that have not been kept at the proper temperature can develop E. Coli. This bacterium is not common either but it can also be dangerous for your baby. Lastly, if you like eating liver, choose organic liver. Because the liver is a filter, if it is not organic, it can transmit several toxins to you and to your baby!
Two of the worst viral infections that can affect pregnant women are common childhood diseases: chickenpox and rubella. Chickenpox increases the risk of miscarriage in the first eight weeks of pregnancy. Between 8 and 20 weeks, it results in 1-2% cases of the congenital varicella syndrome (abnormalities affecting the limbs, eyes, skin, and brain) and causes serious growth issues in late pregnancy. If you catch rubella for the first time early in your pregnancy, the risk of miscarriage is high. If the pregnancy continues, the effects on the fetus can be severe deafness, blindness, heart defects and mental retardation. Fortunately, this is now extremely rare, since most women of childbearing age have already been infected or vaccinated. Rubella tests are part of the first prenatal blood tests. If you are not immune, you should get vaccinated as soon as you give birth. Through vaccination, mumps, measles, and polio are rarely a problem for pregnant women.
Common health problems...
Do you have a bad cold?
Don’t worry; a common cold has no incidence on your baby except if it causes very high fever in early pregnancy, which could result in a miscarriage. If you have a high fever, your doctor will prescribe a medicine to reduce it safely for you and your baby. Medications found in pharmacies often contain caffeine and antihistamines, two products to avoid during pregnancy. Use a nasal saline solution to decongest your nose and consult your doctor if your symptoms persist.
Did you catch gastroenteritis?
Your baby did not! However, you must remain hydrated and eat a little bit or you will have a hard time getting better and that is when you could become dehydrated and cause severe vomiting. Pedialyte is the best product to rehydrate. If the vomiting persists, consult your doctor as soon as possible. Don’t forget to check your temperature.
At the pharmacy…
- It is recommended to avoid aspirin and ibuprofen (unless your doctor prescribes it). You can still use a small amount of Tylenol. (Unless you have medical contraindication)
- Most antihistamines are not recommended during pregnancy.
- Some antibiotics should be avoided because they cause complications in early pregnancy. Check with your doctor if necessary. If you go to a clinic without an appointment, do not forget to share your pregnancy with the doctor!
- Eating fibers and drinking plenty of water should relieve constipation. If you need a laxative, consult your doctor.
- Most antacids are safe and effective for treating indigestion and heartburn during pregnancy. If you take iron supplements, take it separately because antacids reduce assimilation. Ask your pharmacist to chose the right product.
- Water retention should not be fought with diuretics without medical advice.
Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection that can be present in the feces of infected animals. The cat is the animal that is most often infected. It appears that nearly 80% of the population would have already caught it without even noticing, because of the very mild symptoms. Most women are immunized and the fetus as well. However, in case of first infection during pregnancy, the risk of miscarriage or the risk for your baby to suffer from mental retardation or blindness is high. It is therefore advisable to let someone else clean the litter box. Wash your hands after petting a cat and avoid touching a stray cat. If you like gardening, it is important to wear gloves, as several neighborhood cats may have been using your flowerbeds for their natural needs! Toxoplasmosis can also be transmitted by raw or undercooked meat.
Do you have painting to do?
Water-based paint is a much better idea than oil paint for a house where a pregnant woman lives. Oil paint fumes contain chemicals that can be harmful if inhaled in large quantities. If you need to use oil paint, have your work done by someone else! In addition, I advise you not to be in the house during the painting, or if you have no other choice, ventilate the house (open the windows). There is no real danger if you use water paint unless you need to climb up a ladder... which I certainly would not advise!
What about pylons?
Some women are worried because of a big pylon near their house that emits waves. “Could these waves harm my child?” they wonder. It is an excellent question! Unfortunately, no studies confirm whether or not such installations can harm babies. Doctors do not seem overly worried either. The only thing that we know is that a study carried out in the veterinary field has shown that cows living on lands where there is a pylon are more prone to miscarriages than cows living in a pasture without installation. Do waves affect our fertility and pregnancies? It is a question that several researchers are trying to solve.
Other toxic products...
Pregnant women should avoid all types of poisons, pesticides, herbicides, varnishes, and solvents either at home or at work. If you work in a place where you come into contact with chemicals, it is recommended that you take your maternity leave as quickly as possible. Ask your doctor if you are eligible for the special work programs of the government.
In conclusion, pregnant women must pay attention to anything that may contain chemicals or toxic, whether painting or smoking! You can continue to eat what you like... but avoid products that may be undercooked or completely raw, like sushi! Leave the litter box to your spouse or to another person! And if you catch a virus, check your temperature regularly and make sure to use a product that is not harmful to your baby. Your doctor and pharmacist are there to help you make a good choice. Remember, it is important to take good care of this little baby, but it is also important to take care of you!
- Book: « Votre grossesse au jour le jour » by LESLEY REGAN (In French)