By: Darria Long Gillespie, MD, MBA
I'll never forget the two weeks in the middle of my pregnancy when my husband and I were waiting for the results of a repeat ultrasound. I'd already had one, which showed possible growth discrepancies. I then spent the next two weeks wondering what I had done wrong, accompanied by varying states of a fear and spontaneous tears that I've never known before. I leaned on the support of my wonderful and patient close friends - many of who had similar experiences. As my husband and I finally heard the good news that everything was okay, I saw this as an opportunity to help other moms-to-be going through the same.
It made me wonder -- what else terrifies pregnant women? This week, I went to two experts, Gary Glasser, MD, of Atlanta Gynecology and Obstetrics and Dixie Gilmore, a midwife at Obstetrics and Gynecology of Atlanta, in search of some answers. There are probably lots of things that worry you during pregnancy. Here are five you can put to rest:
Vaccines. According to Dr. Glasser, "Vaccines during pregnancy are an important aspect of prenatal care." For women who are up-to-date on their vaccinations, this will mean getting a flu shot (if you're expecting during flu season) and a Tetanus/Diptheria/Pertussis (Tdap). I had my last Tdap in 2012, so thought I was off the hook. But recommendations now include having this vaccine again in your third trimester to pass pertussis antibodies to your baby. Pertussis ("whooping cough") is a disease that can be mild in adults, but can cause death in newborns and infants. Flu is another vaccine that not only protects you, but your baby. According to Gilmore, "by not getting the flu shot, women are putting themselves and their unborn child at risk." Other shots that may be recommended for higher risk women may include Hepatitis A and B and the pneumococcal vaccine.
Around-the-neck umbilical cord. If you're like me, you've thought more than once about the chance of the umbilical cord getting wrapped around your baby's neck. But Gilmore told me this is actually the case in 30% of all pregnancies (point being: despite how common it is, it rarely causes problems.) Not only is it common, it often resolves (moves away from your baby's neck) before birth. Even if it's still around the baby's neck as you deliver, OB/GYN's and midwifes are experts at removing it. In other words? Don't let this keep you up at night.
Eating the wrong thing. I ate some cold cuts - now what?! The problem with lunch meat is it can harbor the bacteria Listeria, which can cause a serious infection in a developing fetus. According to Dr. Glasser, while there is an increased risk of Listeria infection during pregnancy, the risk is actually one in 300,000 (approximately three times that of being struck by lightning)! He recommends that you follow the same food precautions that you would at any other time. "Don't drink unpasteurized milk and wash knives, cutting surfaces and hands after handling raw meat," he says. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here are additional precautions to take:
1. Hot dogs and lunch meats should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F or until steaming hot just before serving. Avoid getting fluid from hot dog and lunch meat packages on other foods, utensils and food preparation surfaces. Wash hands after handling hot dogs, luncheon meats and deli meats.
2. Don't eat soft cheese such as feta, queso blanco, queso fresco, brie, Camembert, blue-veined or panela (queso panela) unless it's made with pasteurized milk.
3. Don't eat refrigerated smoked seafood unless it is in a cooked dish, such as a casserole, or unless it's canned. Refrigerated smoked seafood, such as salmon, trout and whitefish is often labeled as "nova-style," "lox" or "smoked."
4. Canned and shelf stable (processed so that refrigeration isn't needed until the can is opened) fish products such as tuna are safe to eat.
Spotting/Bleeding. "Spotting during pregnancy is always scary, but it doesn't mean the worst," Gilmore says. Just as the blood vessels in your gums and nose can dilate and cause gum bleeding or a bloody nose during pregnancy, the same thing can happen to your cervix. While spotting is most often seen after intercourse, "always check with your healthcare provider [after] any bleeding," says Gilmore. "Just know that it is a common occurrence."
Hair coloring. According to Dr. Glasser, "most experts from both the US and Europe say there are no health risks to hair coloring or permanents." You should follow the same rules of adequate ventilation, wearing gloves and limiting your exposure to the chemicals when you color your hair at home - whether you're pregnant or not. Dr. Glasser advises, however, that you hold off on coloring your hair in the first trimester, when your baby's development is at its most vulnerable, or stick to partial coloring, such as highlights.
As many a parent has told me, pregnancy is "just the start of a lifetime of worrying about your child." But at the very least, let's not waste time worrying about things that don't need it!
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