Congratulations – you are expecting a baby! There will be no shortage of advice from well-meaning friends, relatives and yes, strangers. To help you wade through the information overload, Eric Strand, MD, chief of Washington University’s Division of General Obstetrics and Gynecology, busts some of the top pregnancy myths.
MYTH: YOU NEED TO EAT FOR TWO
Yes, it is true, you are eating for two, but your developing baby only requires an extra 300 calories a day for healthy growth. That equals an apple with peanut butter, or a baked potato with yogurt and chives, or a mixed berry smoothie made with skim milk.
Dr. Strand explains, “A woman of normal weight should gain 25 to 35 pounds during her pregnancy – less if she is overweight. Women who gain more than 50 pounds put themselves at risk for having birth complications such as pregnancy-related diabetes or requiring a Cesarean delivery. While it’s perfectly fine to indulge every once in a while, don’t overdo it—you’ll thank your willpower when you are trying to lose that weight after your delivery.”
MYTH: SAY NO TO THE FLU SHOT
“The CDC recommends that pregnant women get a flu shot during any trimester of their pregnancy to protect themselves and their newborns from the flu”, says Dr. Strand. “Because of changes in the immune system, heart and lungs, pregnant women can experience a more severe case of the flu – sometimes resulting in hospitalization. The flu vaccine is safe and can be a lifesaver for an expectant mother and baby.”
MYTH: NO COFFEE
Yes, you can still wake up and smell the coffee (and drink it too) – just in moderation. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends keeping daily caffeine consumption under 200 milligrams (about one 12 oz. cup of coffee). The association between caffeine intake and miscarriage is unclear, so until more conclusive data is available, limiting intake to 200mg is reasonable. Also remember, many energy drinks may have much larger amounts of caffeine (as much as 500mg!), so exercise caution and consider avoiding these drinks.
MYTH: EXERCISE CAN BE HARMFUL DURING PREGNANCY
Regular exercise is beneficial to both mother and baby. It can help you stay healthy, improve your stamina, relieve stress and decrease some common pregnancy discomforts (like backaches or fatigue). If you were physically active before pregnancy, you should continue—the intensity of your activity may need to change over time, but staying active is a great way to ensure a healthy pregnancy. If you have never exercised regularly before, now is not the time to begin a strenuous exercise program. Always check with your doctor, but walking is a good start.
Dr. Strand says, “We recommend 30 minutes or more of moderate, daily exercise – unless you have a medical condition such as heart disease. The safest activities are swimming, brisk walking, stationary cycling, low-impact aerobics or yoga.
MYTH: FOR THE SAFETY OF YOUR BABY, JUST SUFFER THROUGH THAT POUNDING HEADACHE
According to Dr. Strand, “There are over-the-counter medications that are completely safe to take during pregnancy. You can get relief from your headache, fever, cold or allergies with many medications. There are even prescription drugs that are safe to continue during pregnancy. It’s always a good idea to check with your physician—many will provide a list of safe medications you can use.”
MYTH: AVOID ALL FISH
It is true that you should not eat fish that is known to be high in mercury: swordfish, king mackerel, orange roughy, marlin, tilefish and shark. You should also avoid sushi and any other raw or undercooked fish as they can contain bacteria and parasites that are dangerous for your developing baby.
However, eating enough of the right types of fish is not only healthy, but recommended. The right kind of seafood supports fetal growth, helps the baby’s developing brain, improves your mood, and supports your heart.
Fish that is considered safe to eat (two to three 4-ounce servings a week): shrimp, wild salmon, catfish, tilapia, sole, flounder, haddock, halibut, ocean perch, Pollock, cod, canned light tuna, crab, crawfish, lobster, clams, black sea bass, and trout.
Dr. Strand and his team of Washington University Obstetric Consultants see patients at two convenient locations. To make an appointment, please call 314-362-4211.
If you or someone you know is thinking about getting pregnant, download this easy-to-read flyer (pdf) for safe and healthy pre-pregnancy tips.
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