Almost every pregnant woman can look back to her early weeks of pregnancy and recall some type of risky behavior. For some it’s the headache tablet, the dental X-ray or the hair dye that makes them wince. In my case, it was the wine tasting that I attended on the night that I conceived. As it turns out, these slip-ups probably are fine, according to medical experts, although pregnant women do need to be alert to behaviors that could put their babies at risk.
Here, two top medical experts in fetal and newborn health, Craig V. Towers, M.D., and Urania Magriples, M.D., discuss which habits, foods, activities and medications are safe — and which ones aren’t — during your nine-month odyssey. According to Towers, what matters isn’t just what you do, but at what point in your pregnancy you do it.
After conception, it takes five to seven days for your little bundle of cells to attach to the uterine wall. Only then does it start drawing nutrients and oxygen from you, making what you take into your body really count.
Weeks four to 13 are the most important; that’s when the fetus is forming. Exposure to harmful substances at that time may cause birth defects or affect how a body part functions after birth, says Magriples, associate professor of obstetrics at Yale University in New Haven, Conn.
Few studies have been done on pregnant women, for obvious reasons. But when no good data are available and there’s a suspected risk, experts tend to err on the side of caution. Here’s the rundown of what is known.
A safe level of alcohol consumption for pregnant women has not been determined, so many experts recommend abstinence. Heavy use during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol syndrome — a serious, lifelong condition. But don’t stress out about the glass of champagne you had before you knew you were pregnant.