The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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solutions} Studies show that smoking and heavy caffeine consumption can slightly increase miscarriage risk, so limit yourself to one or two cups of java a day—300 milligrams maximum of caffeine—and toss the cigarettes. If you miscarry two or three times in a row, consult your OB-GYN; testing can sometimes help determine a cause and prevent recurrences.
the fear} My baby isn’t getting the necessary nutrients because I can’t keep anything down.
the facts} Seventy to 85 percent of pregnant women experience nausea, or morning sickness, which usually subsides around week 14. But for much of the first trimester, your baby is so tiny, she doesn’t need much, and what she does need, she’ll leach from your body.
solutions} Folic acid is an important first-trimester nutrient, so at the very least take a 400-microgram supplement daily from the time you start thinking about getting pregnant.
the fear} There will be something wrong with my baby, like a birth defect.
the facts} The vast majority of babies—slightly less than 97 percent—are born without abnormalities of any type. Of the remaining 3 percent, many defects are minor and easily corrected, such as webbed toes. Taking folic acid, ideally starting before you get pregnant, can dramatically reduce the risk of a neural-tube defect, one of the most serious types.
solutions} While not foolproof, routine screening tests, as well as a new first-trimester test, can help put your mind at ease. Performed around 11 weeks and combined with an ultrasound that measures fluid at the back of the fetus’s neck (nuchal translucency), the first-trimester test is better at detecting abnormalities than the standard expanded alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) test given between 15 and 20 weeks. Sharing your family history with your doctor can help determine if you’re at greater risk for particular genetic defects. Controlling certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, decreases your chances of having a baby with a defect, as does avoiding alcohol, cigarettes and illegal drugs.
the fear} I’m over 35 and therefore “high risk.”
the facts} High-risk complications, which occur in about 10 to 15 percent of all pregnancies in the United States, most often result in healthy babies and don’t automatically appear once you reach a certain age. Rather, “high risk” usually refers to problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, autoimmune disorders and multiple gestations that require closer monitoring. True, as your eggs mature, you’re at increased risk for having a child with a chromosomal abnormality, but the odds are still with you: The risk for Down syndrome is one in 400 at age 35 and one in 100 at age 40.