The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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An ectopic, or "tubal," pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg becomes implanted in an area other than the uterus. Ectopics occur in one of the two fallopian tubes 95 percent of the time; these cases usually are due to scarring from an earlier pelvic infection or inflammation. The remaining 5 percent occur on an ovary or, rarely, elsewhere in the abdominal cavity.
While the patch and other nicotine-replacement products are generally considered OK to use during pregnancy, their absolute safety has not been confirmed. As such, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women try to stop smoking via other means before turning to these products. You might, for instance, work with a therapist who specializes in smoking cessation or find a "smoking buddy" you can turn to for support and encouragement.
Contracting chickenpox during pregnancy can have serious effects on a fetus, so it is best to know your immune status prior to conceiving. Immunity can be conferred in two ways: either by having had the illness or by being vaccinated against it. If you are uncertain whether you are immune to chickenpox, a simple blood test can tell.
A blighted ovum occurs when a fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall, but the embryo does not develop. So even though the body's baby-making machinery is in place--an egg has been fertilized, a gestational sac and placenta are forming, and symptoms of pregnancy may be occurring--the embryo itself stops growing. Experts aren't sure why, but they suspect that chromosomal abnormalities may be the primary cause.
My husband, Paul, and I launched Operation Procreation in perhaps the least romantic spot in the Southern Hemisphere: the windowless room of a $10-a-night hostel in Chile, decorated with faux oak paneling, brown industrial carpeting, a blinding overhead fluorescent light and, on the night table, a statue of the Virgin Mary. Paul was so creeped out by the stained, scratchy bed sheets that as I undressed, he disappeared, fully clothed, into his sleeping bag.
See your doctor several months before you want to conceive—and bring your partner. Doing so may help you prevent birth defects, pregnancy complications or prematurity, the March of Dimes reports.
Tell your doctor about any prescription or over-the-counter drugs or herbal remedies that you are taking.
Begin taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid daily.
Harvard School of Public Health researchers found that women who adopted at least five healthy habits were 84 percent less likely to suffer infertility because of ovulation problems than women who followed none. Women were more likely to ovulate normally when they ate less trans fat and simple carbohydrates, such as white rice and white bread; got more protein from vegetables than from meat; ate more fiber and iron; took more multivitamins with folic acid; had a lower body mass index; and exercised daily. They also consumed more high-fat dairy products and fewer low-fat ones.
Neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida have declined 26 percent in the decade since federal officials required food manufacturers to begin supplementing grain products with folic acid, the synthetic form of folate. Consuming at least 400 micrograms of this B vitamin daily before conception and in the early weeks of pregnancy helps prevent the defects. To mark the 10th anniversary of the federal mandate, the March of Dimes and the Grain Foods Foundation teamed up to create a seal that helps consumers identify the fortified foods.
While there's no perfect time to have a baby, women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s may have different approaches toward pregnancy and motherhood. Here, we take you on a journey through the ages, with tips on starting out fit and healthy—no matter how old you are when you conceive.
Through the Ages
Pregnancy and motherhood at 20 30 & 40
According to the Harvard study of diet and fertility, the more of the following changes you make, the better your chances of improving your ovulatory function:
When my husband and I started trying to make a baby, we were halfway through a round-the-world trip and having plenty of sex. Yet, we returned home not pregnant. I began using ovulation-predictor kits, and our lovemaking became less spontaneous, more "we-need-to-do-it-today," especially since my 35th birthday was looming.
Studies have shown that any breast surgery, including biopsy, reduction or augmentation, may result in inadequate milk supply. Experts aren't sure why augmentation might have this effect, but there's speculation that the surgery could cause damage to the milk ducts or that pressure from the implants could harm the breast tissue. Whether the implants are saline or silicone doesn't seem to affect nursing success, but the incision location does.
If you're getting paid while on maternity leave, consider yourself lucky: Out of 173 countries worldwide, the United States is one of only five that don't guarantee paid leave to give birth and care for a newborn, according to a recent study by researchers at Harvard and McGill universities.