Congratulations! You’re pregnant and starting out on a beautiful journey. It’s likely that you have plenty of questions, so our Maternity Health Coaches are here to help! We broke down a few of the most common questions they hear from their clients to help put your mind at ease.
1. How long can I work?
A: Most activities, when done in moderation, are safe. That includes work. Traveling for work is generally OK, but some doctors advise against flying and some airlines won’t let you fly during your last trimester. You should discuss any travel plans with your doctor.
Morning sickness, fatigue, and other discomforts may make working a challenge. If you experience any of these problems, talk to your doctor about ways you can feel better. He or she can also help you develop a plan for returning to work, even if you are breastfeeding, and guide you through the process of getting a breast pump.
2. Can I still exercise?
A: Moderate exercise is good for healthy pregnant woman who are receiving prenatal care. It can improve your posture and relieve back pain and other pregnancy-related discomforts.
You can try swimming, water aerobics, exercise classes designed for pregnant women, or classes that offer safe variations for pregnant women. Talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program.
3. Is it OK for me to have sex?
A: Your interest in sex may change throughout your pregnancy, but you can safely have vaginal intercourse as long as your pregnancy is uncomplicated. Your doctor will probably advise you to avoid sexual intercourse if any of the following occur:
- The placenta covers or partially covers your cervix (placenta previa)
- Your “water” (amniotic sac) breaks (ruptured membranes)
- Contractions start sooner than 37 weeks (preterm labor)
You can always discuss any concerns or questions with your doctor.
4. What foods shouldn’t I eat?
A: There are foods and drinks you should avoid while you’re pregnant:
- There is no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drinking alcohol will put your baby at risk for fetal defects, fetal alcohol syndrome, and premature birth. Trade your favorite mixed drinks for a nonalcoholic version.
- Raw batter or dough. Cookie dough and cake batter may contain uncooked eggs that can carry salmonella. Premade cookie dough has been linked to E. coli. infections. Always bake cookies and cakes to avoid any risks.
- Certain soft cheeses. Avoid any cheese made from raw milk. They can harbor Listeria or E. coli. You can safely snack on pasteurized soft cheeses as well as hard cheeses like cheddar.
- High-mercury fish. Shark, tilefish, king mackerel, and swordfish may contain high levels of mercury. Eating these fish can lead to birth defects, such as visual and hearing impairment, and brain and spinal cord developmental issues. You should also limit your tuna intake (no more than 6 ounces of canned tuna per week). Safe seafood options include salmon, tilapia, and shrimp.
- Sushi and other undercooked fish and seafood. Undercooked seafood such as fish, oysters, and clams may contain bacteria that can be harmful for your baby. You must thoroughly cook fish when you’re pregnant.
- Unpasteurized milk and juices. Raw cider and milk may contain harmful bacteria. Enjoy a glass of the pasteurized variety instead. Check the label before you buy.
- Raw or undercooked vegetable sprouts. Sprouts that are grown in the ground cannot be easily washed to remove or kill bacteria. Mung bean, radish, clover, and alfalfa sprouts should be thoroughly cooked before you eat them.
- Grocery store ham, chicken salad, and tuna salads. Ham, chicken, and seafood salads made in grocery stores may not have been properly prepared. This can expose you and your baby to harmful bacteria. Skip the deli counter and make these salads at home.
5. Can I dye my hair?
A: There is not much research on using products such as hair dye, perms, or nail polish during pregnancy. It is generally a good idea to reduce your exposure to these chemicals. If you choose to use them, do so in a room that is well-ventilated.
6. Is vaginal spotting or bleeding normal during pregnancy?
A: Red or brown spotting or light bleeding may happen during pregnancy. Up to 25 percent of pregnant women have some spotting or light vaginal bleeding during their first trimester.
Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy is more common in women who have been pregnant before than in women who are pregnant for the first time. If the bleeding persists, you experience cramping, or you see fluid or tissue in your underwear, call your doctor right away. This may be a sign of something more serious.
7. Can morning sickness happen at other times during the day?
A: Yes. Many women find that nausea and vomiting are worst in the morning. However, these issues can arise at any time of the day or night. Try these tips to get some relief:
- Eat several small meals and healthy snacks throughout the day instead of three large meals. Eating too much or not enough can make you feel nauseated.
- For morning sickness, eat a small snack (like crackers) before you get out of bed. Wait a few minutes for the snack to digest, then slowly get out of bed.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Water, sports hydration drinks, broth, or juice (in moderation) are all good options.
- Eat more protein and reduce your intake of fatty foods.
- Avoid smells and foods that make you feel nauseated.
- If you are taking iron supplements, ask your doctor if they are necessary. Iron can make nausea worse.
- Get plenty of rest. Stress and fatigue can make morning sickness worse.
Contact your doctor immediately if you vomit more than three times a day or are unable to keep fluids down, especially if you also have pain, fever, or both.
8. Why do I need to take prenatal vitamins?
A: Prenatal multivitamins help you nourish your baby and maintain your health during pregnancy. Some prenatal multivitamins may include minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Some vitamins and minerals can harm an unborn baby if they are taken in large doses, so you should take a prenatal vitamin that is formulated for pregnant women. Your pharmacist can provide more information about prenatal multivitamins.
You may need to continue taking prenatal multivitamins if you breastfeed your baby. Ask your doctor whether doing so would be right for you.
9. Should I get a flu shot? Will it make me or my baby sick?
A: You should get a flu shot. Pregnant women are at high risk of complications from seasonal flu, and those complications can lead to miscarriage, premature labor, or other pregnancy problems. Getting a flu shot can protect you and your baby.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a flu shot for women who become pregnant during flu season, which typically lasts from early October through late March. The flu shot is made from an inactivated virus, so it is safe for you and your and baby. If you get a flu shot while you’re pregnant, the vaccine can protect your baby until he or she is 6 months old. This is because you will develop antibodies that will pass through the placenta and help protect your baby.
10. What medications can I take?
A: You need to be very careful about the medications you take while you’re pregnant. You should not take any medications — including over-the-counter drugs and herbal supplements — without first talking to your doctor.
Here are some recommended medicines for common discomforts, colds, and the flu:
- For headaches, muscle aches, or mild pain, you may take two regular-strength acetaminophen (ah-SEE-tah-min-oh-fen) tablets (325 mg), such as Tylenol, every six hours.
- For head congestion or a stuffy nose, try saline nasal spray. You may take two squirts in each nostril every six hours. If you are more than three months pregnant, you may take one or two pseudoephedrine (sue-doe-eh-FEH-drin) tablets (30 mg to 60 mg), such as Sudafed, every six hours. Talk to your doctor about using Sudafed during the first three months of pregnancy. If your doctor advises you not to use it, try diphenhydramine (die-fen-HI-dra-meen), like Benadryl. Take one to two Benadryl tablets (25 mg to 50 mg) every six hours. Use caution when taking Benadryl. It may make you drowsy.
- For a sore throat,gargle with warm salt water or mouthwash. Suck on cough drops or throat lozenges.
- For a cough, you can take cough medicines with dextromethorphan (dex-tro-meth-ORfan) and guaifenesin (gwy-FEN-ih-sin), such as Robitussin DM.
- For seasonal allergies or hay fever, which may include watery eyes and a runny nose, you can take Benadryl (25 mg to 50 mg), every six hours. Use caution when taking Benadryl. It may make you drowsy.
- For heartburn or indigestion, try taking an antacid such as Tums, Rolaids, Maalox, or Mylanta.
- For dental procedures, you may have a local anesthetic without epinephrine (epeh-NEF-rin). You can take Tylenol for pain relief.
- Most antibiotics and mild narcotic pain medicines are safe, but you should talk to your doctor before taking them. Avoid tetracycline (teh-tra-SYE-kleen), doxycycline (dock-sih-SYE-kleen), and ciprofloxacin (sip-row-FLOX-ah-sin). Do not take cotrimoxazole (ko-try-MOX-ahzol) (Bactrim) during the first three months of pregnancy.
Maternity Health Coaching
If you need extra help, you may have access to a maternity health coach. A maternity health coach can help you stay as healthy as possible during your pregnancy. Check your health plan benefits to see if this support is available for you.
Current as of: November 21, 2017
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Sarah A. Marshall, MD – Family Medicine & Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine & Kirtly Jones, MD – Obstetrics and Gynecology, Reproductive Endocrinology