The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Surely you’ve heard this stern warning for years, but you’ve probably also heard that your mother was allowed to smoke while she was pregnant with you. How’s that for the ultimate in conflicting information? After all, if your mom had a few cigarettes during the 9 months that she carried you, and you came out healthy, what’s the problem?
Well, like most things in life that are too good to be true, this is too. The fact is, smoking is not at all good for you. It dramatically increases your risk, for lung, cervical, throat and mouth cancers; heart disease; lung disease; stroke; and osteoporosis. There are just as many important reasons that smoking is not good for your developing baby. It decreases the amount of oxygen in his blood, stunts his growth, and increases the chance he’ll be born too early and will develop asthma, ADHD or other cognitive/behavioral problems or even suffer from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Take this seriously. Quitting smoking now is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby. If you can’t do it on your own; ask you health-care provider to help you find a smoking cessation program that will work for you.
Do Take a Prenatal Vitamin
There is general agreement that it’s important to increase your consumption of a number of vitamins and minerals when you’re pregnant to ensure your baby’s optimal development and your own health. If you can do this by modifying your usual diet, then you probably won’t need a prenatal vitamin. However, studies have shown that most Americans don’t meet even their basic nutritional needs on a daily basis, so we assume that many pregnant women need a little help with this.
Here’s another good reason to take a prenatal vitamin: Recent research suggests that certain nutrients, in quantities that are difficult to get through diet alone, can help with fetal development and even aid in preventing some common pregnancy complications. For example, choline and omega 3 fats have been shown to enhance fetal brain development. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects, and vitamin C can prevent premature rupture of the membranes. With these likely important benefits, my belief is that if you can afford the expense, a prenatal vitamin has no risk and much potential reward. If you choose not to take one, you should eat as healthfully as possible during your pregnancy.
The directives that you receive regarding pregnancy dos and don’ts may make you feel that if you don’t follow each instruction to the letter, something will go wrong. If you believe that, you’ll spend your days trying to control things over which you actually have no power, causing yourself unnecessary stress.
Instead, believe in your ability to produce a healthy baby. If you trust that, you’ll experience your pregnancy with joy. You’ll be motivated to take care of your body by eating well and exercising gently, relaxing with the occasional drink, enjoying your morning coffee and even indulging in some chocolate, which data shows actually leads to calmer babies. Allow yourself to live freely, laugh often and love much - this is exactly how pregnancy, and life, should be experienced.
Giving Birth with Confidence, the online community created by Lamaze International, provides articles and tips written for and by real women (and men) on a variety of topics related to pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and parenting. Their goal is to help women achieve healthy pregnancies and safe, satisfying births by offering a meeting ground to obtain information and support from other women, Lamaze-Certified Childbirth Educators and knowledgeable experts.