Routine prenatal screening tests can understandably cause expectant parents a good amount of worry. But it’s reassuring to know that despite the possibility of scary results, the vast majority of pregnancies end in the birth of a healthy baby.
It goes with the territory: When you’re pregnant, you can’t help but worry about the health of your baby. Fortunately, there are a host of prenatal tests that can help ease your fears and make even a healthy pregnancy less stressful. Following is a rundown of the tests you’re most likely to undergo; see the chart at right for detailed information.
Pregnant women are notorious worriers. They fret over prenatal tests, maternity leave, baby names, labor, sleeping arrangements for their new arrival, child care, even food cravings. But generally their biggest worry is whether they’ll have a healthy baby. Not to worry. The odds are sky-high that when your child is born, she’ll be the picture of good health. But you can push those odds even higher by taking good care of yourself before and during pregnancy.
now, more than ever, taking care of yourself is top priority. With your baby developing inside you, you know you should get the most out of what you’re eating. You also know that you need extra calories for your baby’s development. But there may be something you haven’t thought about: Avoiding foods that make you sick or that harm your growing baby is also an important part of the equation.
One of the top questions on Julie Hoegee’s mind when she found out she was pregnant at age 34 was whether she should have an amniocentesis. “There was just something scary about a big needle going into my belly,” says the Los Angeles mother of 8-month-old Charlie. “And I knew there was a slight miscarriage risk.” So when Hoegee’s nurse-midwife and doctor told her about combined first-trimester screening, a blood test and new ultrasound technique that can reliably determine risk for chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down syndrome, as early as week 11 of pregnancy, she jumped on it.
Before my first pregnancy, I enjoyed a glass of wine with dinner and an occasional big, juicy chili dog. But even in those very first days after I conceived, the wine tasted flat and the hot dog repulsed me. Fast-forward a few weeks. With a positive pregnancy test in hand, I realized that my body knew I was pregnant before my mind did. Of course, the earliest symptoms of pregnancy wax and wane and are different for each woman; in fact, some women may experience (or notice) none of them. But several can crop up well before you even miss a period.
Doing all the right things
"Am I exercising too hard? Am I eating the right (or wrong) foods? What if I eat three servings of fish a week, rather than the recommended two?"
— Stacy Whitman, Ketchum, Idaho, mother of Whit, 2, and pregnant with twins
Probably not. One concern with air travel is exposure to solar radiation, as excessive amounts of any type of radiation may put a fetus at increased risk for childhood cancers. However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that such risks from "casual" air travel under normal solar conditions are negligible.
First, let me say that you--and every pregnant woman--should talk with your doctor about athletic training during pregnancy. That said, I offer the following rules for a trained athlete as long as she is in good health, has no pregnancy complications and had no problems such as miscarriage or preterm labor in a prior pregnancy.
Stick with the training conditions you are used to. If you run on a track, this is not the time to start negotiating hilly streets.
Toddlers have very little patience and even less of a concept of time, so try to wait until four to eight weeks before your due date to discuss the new baby. But if you're showing a lot and she starts asking questions, you might have to talk about it earlier.
Continuing to nurse likely is safe for you, your son and your baby in utero. A few caveats: Since breastfeeding burns calories and requires more fluids, you must eat and drink enough to stay well-hydrated and nourished and gain adequate weight. Also, breast stimulation in the last six weeks of pregnancy can lead to uterine contractions, so if there are concerns about preterm labor, your obstetrician may want you to stop nursing.
No one really knows. While there is no evidence that these supplements cause problems for a woman or her baby during pregnancy, there has not been enough scientific research to tell us with any certainty that they are safe.
As an obstetrician, I advise all my patients to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and to avoid taking any medications or supplements that are not absolutely necessary during pregnancy. But since I'm not familiar with the specifics of your joint health, you'll need to speak directly with your doctor about this issue.
No. Many natural barriers in your body, including the cervix and amniotic sac, protect your baby from external substances such as chlorine in a pool or even soapy bath water. In fact, swimming is one of the most beneficial and comfortable forms of exercise you can do during pregnancy, as the water imparts a weightlessness that many women find soothing. That said, I recommend that you check with your doctor before beginning (or continuing) any exercise program.