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While pregnancy is exhilarating, it is common for expecting women to feel like they are walking on eggshells. Suddenly, you are wary of every last product, snack, and move you make. While there are definite things you should avoid during pregnancy, such as alcohol and smoking, you can't be losing sleep over a turkey sandwich or if bringing your groceries inside will result in disaster. We got together some of the most common fears that plague pregnant women and explained whether or not these are indeed a concern and what you can be doing to alleviate your worries.
Common Concerns During Pregnancy
1. I need to get rid of my cat!
While your kitten has probably been your baby for a while now, it can start posing a serious threat to your baby during pregnancy. When cats eat infected rodents or birds, they can transmit a dangerous parasite, called toxoplasmosis, that could be passed onto you as you clean out their litter box. While you may not experience any symptoms of toxoplasmosis, when a fetus is infected with it, toxoplasmosis can lead to severe brain and eye damage. But you do not have to get rid of Garfield! Have someone else clean out the litter box, wear gloves when cleaning it, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water immediately after cleaning, and feed your cat commercial food. By taking these precautions, you (and your cat) can sleep soundly at night.
2. I'm going to eat the wrong thing.
Your doctor will cover the big no-nos of pregnancy at your first appointment, such as smoking and alcohol. They will also present you with a laundry list of foods and products to avoid – soft cheeses, sushi, lunch meat, hot dogs, and more. Since many of these foods can be staples in your pre-pregnancy diet, it can be daunting trying to remember them all. However, many of these foods pose a minuscule threat to your pregnancy, and your doctors warn you against them in an overabundance of caution. This means if you accidentally slip up and eat a turkey sandwich, you do not need to panic! Swap out your tuna roll for a cooked alternative like a shrimp tempura roll, and be as mindful as you can when choosing your meal.
3. What if my baby has a birth defect?
Our first word of advice on this subject is to stay away from the internet. Going down a congenital disability rabbit hole will only spin you into a tizzy. Remember, only 3% of births have defects, and of those, many are treatable. Many causes of these defects are unknown or genetic. The best chance you can give yourself and your baby for a defect-free birth is avoiding alcohol, smoking, and sources of high mercury, such as raw fish. Additionally, make sure you're getting your daily recommended dose of folic acid, as it plays a crucial role in developing your baby's brain and spine, take your prenatal vitamins if suggested by your doctor, eat a well-balanced diet and get into a regular meditation practice to ease anxiety arising from such concerns.
4. I'm going to sleep in the wrong position and hurt the baby:
During pregnancy, it is less important how you sleep and more important that you are getting proper rest. You are OK to sleep on your stomach until your bump comes in; at that point, it will be just plain uncomfortable to try and sleep that way. In later trimesters, sleeping on your back won't harm your baby; it just puts excess weight on your vena cava – a major vein that brings blood back to your heart from your lower body. This position can cause backaches, hemorrhoids and interfere with circulation. Most experts recommend sleeping on your left side, as it puts the least amount of pressure on your vena cava, but do not worry about hurting your baby – you need to get your rest!
5. We can't have sex while I'm pregnant.
Sex will not hurt your baby! In fact, it can help kickstart labor if your due date is coming up. Many couples notes enjoying this phase more with the increased blood flow to your genital area. Your OBGgyn may ask you to take caution in certain conditions such as placenta previa, history of preterm labor, or STDs, or other medical conditions. Check with your doctor to get a medical understanding in case this worry is taking a toll on your sex life.
6. Too much exercise will hurt the baby:
There is no evidence that exercise negatively affects a pregnancy. Most doctors recommend that you stay relatively consistent with your pre-pregnancy activity level. If you were not a vigorous exerciser before you got pregnant, perhaps pregnancy is not the time to dial up your workouts. However, exercise is recommended during pregnancy. Not only does it do wonders for your mood, but it can help keep your weight and blood pressure in check while also maintaining your stamina for labor. Prenatal yoga is a great way to get some good workouts during pregnancy. Make sure you do exercise as long it feels comfortable to you. Don't unnecessarily push yourself and keep your hydration up.
7. What if I go into labor too early?
While pregnancy is set to last 40 weeks, did you know 37 weeks is actually considered full-term? Even babies born after 34 weeks are not at a much greater risk of lifelong setbacks from being premature than those born later into gestation. Only 12% of babies are considered premature, and a large chunk of that 12% accounts for births of multiples, women with a history of delivering prematurely, and women with cervical abnormalities. If you are concerned about going into premature labor, the leading cause of preterm birth is infection. So, make sure you are immunized and properly treat any infections, even common ones like a urinary tract infection! Other significant triggers that bring on early labor can be remedied by keeping your blood pressure, stress, and weight in check.
8. I won't be able to handle labor pain.
As you can imagine, this is one of the most common pregnancy fears. Unfortunately, there is no pain-free way through labor. Whether you go natural or have an epidural or C-section, you will feel contractions and need a few weeks of recovery. The best way to alleviate your fear of labor pain is to prepare yourself. Take a Lamaze class to learn breathing techniques, meet with a doula to discuss all of your labor options, learn stretches and positions that can ease back labor and calm you during delivery. Many women find it incredibly helpful to educate themselves about the various stages of labor, so they know what to expect. Fear of the unknown is usually worse than the fear of pain itself. Also, epidural works like a charm on 95% of women who only feel the pressure but no pain. Cesarean section is also
performed under anesthesia. Your recovery will take time, and you must allow yourself time to recover and rest. Having a positive mindset, regular mediation practice, a support group of friends, family, or other expecting moms, are all good ways to prepare yourself for labor. Remember, visualizing holding your precious little one in your arms will ease any anxiety building up.
Joining an expecting mom group, practicing meditation, and discussing concerns with family and friends will significantly help alleviate your fears. For everything else, mumlists is here to help. Take a deep breath, mommy!