For some women, pregnancy means 40 weeks of worrying. If you’re having a hard time deciphering what’s safe and what’s not, take a look at some of these common fears and find out what’s really of concern and what’s merely myth.
Despite what you may think, your baby cannot feel when you have intercourse. She is protected by the amniotic fluid in the womb and by your abdomen. However, when you experience an orgasm, sometimes (especially later in pregnancy) you may feel mild to moderate contractions (these are not the rhythmic contractions of labor, though, so don't worry). Your baby may feel a gentle tightening and loosening of the uterus during these contractions. Some doctors even believe that babies experience a short state of euphoria after you experience an orgasm, thanks to the release of endorphins prompted by having sex.
The real concern with hair treatments, such as permanents, highlights, and dyes, is that some of the chemicals may be absorbed through the scalp and into your body, then will be passed on to your developing fetus. Reputable organizations, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Pregnancy Association, advise pregnant women to avoid getting hair treatments during the first trimester, when they are most vulnerable to miscarriage, and after that to take some precautions, "just in case." Some of these precautions are the following:
Opt for foil highlights instead of dyes so that less product touches your scalp
Wear gloves if you're dyeing your hair yourself
Choose a well-ventilated area for your hair treatment to minimize your exposure to fumes
Follow the directions carefully for using hair treatment products
Nearly every pregnant woman worries about miscarriage. There is reason for these concerns. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), "Anywhere from 10 to 25 percent of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage (most due to chromosomal abnormalities)." But there are steps you can take to minimize that risk. Along with regular prenatal visits, here's what the ACOG recommends:
Get regular exercise and eat a balanced diet
Cut down on stress
Take daily prenatal vitamins, including folic acid
Avoid harmful substances such as cigarettes and alcohol
Check with your doctor before taking any
Limit or eliminate caffeinated drinks
Avoid radiation, infectious disease, X-rays
Don't participate in contact sports or activities that have risk of injury
Fear: Will a Loop in the Umbilical Cord Hurt My Baby? 4 of 10
A nuchal cord, or when the umbilical cord wraps completely around a baby's neck in utero, is fairly common. According to the March of Dimes, "about 25 percent of babies are born with a nuchal cord" but one loop around "rarely causes any problems." Sometimes, the nuchal cord will resolve itself on its own before delivery, but other times the baby is born with the cord around his neck without any problem. Part of the reason the cord usually doesn't get too tight is because it is lubricated with what's called Wharton's jelly. Don't worry, your regularly scheduled prenatal visits and ultrasounds will keep you up to date on this.
Fear: If I'm Upside Down or Bend Over, Will I Hurt My Baby? 5 of 10
Pregnancy is no time to perfect your yoga headstand! Your center of gravity is off, and being completely upside down (with all that blood rushing to your head) may make you feel especially dizzy and off balance. So, skip hanging upside down from the kids' swing set or practicing inverted yoga poses for now. As for bending over, it's OK as long as you're not compressing your abdomen and are bending at the hips with your feet firmly planted (so you don't lose your balance). Take your time and listen to your body. If a particular position or movement doesn't feel good to you right now, simply don't do it!
Fear: If I Jump Around Too Much, Will I Hurt My Baby? 6 of 10
Your movements (even a little jumping around) shouldn't lead to drastic changes in your baby's position—or harm. After all, he's got several layers of protection, including the amniotic fluid that fills his cozy home inside your uterus. But keep in mind that vigorous movements may carry some risks to your developing baby. First, your center of gravity is off as your growing uterus expands. Also, according to the American Pregnancy Association, "High impact aerobics is not recommended because of the extensive jumping, hopping, and bouncing during the routine." So talk to your healthcare provider before jumping into new exercise programs or activities.
Premature births are on the rise, but that doesn't mean you'll have one. According to The March of Dimes, during 2004 in the United States there were 508,356 preterm births (12.5 percent of live births). And between 1994 and 2004, the rate of premature births reached nearly 14 percent. But you can take steps to minimize your risks. The March of Dimes suggests you know the signs of preterm labor, stop drinking and smoking, eat a balanced die, and make sure you see your healthcare provider regularly.
Fear: When Labor Begins, Will I Need to Race to the Hospital? 8 of 10
Despite what you may have seen on TV and in movies, labor takes time—especially if it's your first pregnancy. Your labor will most likely take hours or days, not minutes. The March of Dimes points out that for first-time mothers the average length of labor is 12 to 14 hours. Second and later births will most likely go faster.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), one in three babies in the United States is delivered by C-section. Many of these births are the result of the growing trend of women opting for a C-section. Your healthcare provider may decide you require a C-section in the following cases:
You've already had a C-section
Your baby is too big for vaginal birth
Your baby is breech
Your baby is in a transverse position
There are problems with the placenta
Labor is too slow or stops
There is an umbilical cord prolapse
You're having twins, triplets or more
The baby shows signs of fetal distress
Fear: Will Really Embarrassing Things Happen to Me during Labor? 10 of 10
You may have heard stories about what happens while you're delivering your baby. For example, you might feel shy about donning just a hospital gown in front of people you've never met before (even the labor nurse)! Heavy pushing while in labor may mean that your bowels empty, too. Your baby may also have a bowel movement before delivery so that the amniotic fluid is stained. KidsHealth, a national research organization, reveals that this happens in 6 to 25 percent of babies' births. But the truth is, the hospital staff and your healthcare provider have seen it all before.