The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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solutions} Remember that most healthy women ages 35 and older have problem-free pregnancies. Meet with a genetic counselor to discuss your individual risks and whether you should undergo genetic testing.
the fear} I’m afraid exercising too strenuously or performing certain moves may harm my baby.
the facts} “There’s no study showing exercise damages a fetus,” says OB-GYN Broder, a former researcher at Rand Health, a think tank in Santa Monica, Calif. On the contrary, research points to many benefits of staying active, including more energy, better sleep and fewer aches and pains such as leg cramps, swelling and constipation. In 2001, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists lifted its cautions against too much exercise, concluding that pregnant women don’t need to alter their fitness routine. However, certain health complications preclude vigorous exercise, and a few activities, such as scuba diving, are off-limits. Turn up your iPod and ignore sideways glances from fellow gym rats; instead, listen to your body’s signals. “Your body usually will tell you if you’re working out too hard,” says Gloria Bachmann, M.D., associate dean for women’s health at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick.
the fear} I’ll go into premature labor.
the facts} One in eight babies are born before 37 weeks’ gestation, and half the time no one knows why. Prematurity is the leading cause of death in the first month.
solutions} While you may not realize it, the steps you’re probably already taking—such as avoiding alcohol, drugs, stress and prolonged standing, and monitoring health problems—help to stave off premature labor. Call your doctor if you experience any warning signs of premature labor, including contractions every 10 minutes or more often, or leaking of amniotic fluid or blood. Drugs can be given to delay labor and speed maturation of the fetus’s lungs and other organs.
the fear} I won’t be able to bear the pain of labor.
the facts} About 60 percent of women opt for pain relief via epidural, and the medications used today “have no negative effects on babies,” Bachmann says. What’s more, serious side effects are rare. Only if labor progresses very quickly—a rarity among first-timers—is there a chance you won’t have time to receive an epidural. (For more information, see “Epidurals: Fact vs. Fiction”)