Advice From NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia Physicians on Preparing Yourself for a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy
Apr 25, 2008
Being pregnant with a job is hard work. Not only is there that extra weight to carry around, but planning a happy and healthy pregnancy involves navigating tricky issues like scheduling your doctor's visits, whether it's safe to travel, and how to deal with morning sickness.
Two physicians at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center answer 10 frequently asked questions by women juggling a job and a pregnancy.
"By anticipating and planning for some of these challenges, working mothers-to-be can enjoy these nine months both on the job and off," says Dr. Tamara Kuittinen, an emergency medicine physician and expecting mother.
"Talk with your OB/GYN about any questions or concerns. There are no signs or symptoms that you shouldn't discuss during your pregnancy. This will help us catch any potential problems that can be prevented or treated in order to keep you and your baby safe and healthy. This is especially the case for mothers over the age of 35, who are at higher risk for complications like pre-term labor and preeclampsia," says Dr. Laurie Zephyrin, an OB/GYN physician and an expert in public health.
- How do I schedule doctor's visits? In the beginning of your pregnancy you will see the doctor once a month; in the second trimester the frequency of your visits will increase, culminating in weekly visits in your final month. To avoid missing work, schedule your appointments during your lunch break. Many doctors offer early and late hours. Don't skip these visits. Mothers that see their prenatal care provider regularly have healthier babies and are less likely to have babies born with low birth weight or other problems.
- Is it safe to see the dentist? While you're busy with your pregnancy-related doctor's appointments, don't forget about the rest of your health upkeep — including your teeth. Contrary to the popular misconception that pregnant women should skip their regular dental visits, dental hygiene during pregnancy is very important. In fact, some studies link poor dental hygiene with preterm labor. However, be sure to tell your dentist that you're pregnant. Avoid X-rays, if possible.
- I have morning sickness. What do I do? More than half of pregnant women experience morning sickness or fatigue. Morning sickness usually occurs only in the first trimester. While the phenomenon remains a medical mystery, it is believed to be caused by rising hormone levels. One way to cope is to drink and eat in small amounts throughout the day. For some, eating crackers may be all they can handle. Save your eating and important work decisions for the time of day you usually feel best. There is usually no cause for concern, but if you can't keep down fluids, you should see your doctor. As for "first-trimester fatigue," it usually resolves by the fourth month. Eating balanced meals, taking your prenatal vitamins and taking short naps may help.
- What can I do about insomnia? While insomnia is little understood by medical science, it is fairly common among pregnant women, especially in the second and third trimesters when the growth of the belly can cause discomfort in the back. Sleeping on your side may help with back discomfort. Snoring is also more common among pregnant women. Tips include using a full-body pillow and staying on a regular sleep schedule. If you wake up, do something productive and focused like paying your bills or reading a book.
- Can I still drink my morning cup of coffee? You should reduce your caffeine intake. There is recent research that demonstrates high caffeine intake may increase your risk of miscarriage. But there's no need to get worried or quit outright. If you drink two cups before getting pregnant, switch to one cup. If you drink one cup, consider decaf. Remember caffeine is present in some sodas and teas as well.
- What's for lunch and other meals? Plan your meals around your baby's nutritional needs. Fruits, veggies, grains, protein and dairy are all essential. To make meal planning easier, keep list of the food groups that you should get daily on the refrigerator with a list of specific foods in each group that you enjoy. You might eat a wholegrain cereal with fruit for breakfast; tangerines, apples, cheese cubes, yogurt or walnuts for snacks; pre-packed chicken breast for lunch; and a dinner of salmon steak. But stay away from fish high in mercury, including shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish and albacore tuna.
- Can I hit the gym after work? Confirm with your doctor that you have a normal, low-risk pregnancy. If you do, it's safe to keep up your exercise routine. In fact it's an excellent way to beat stress and keep your baby healthy by improving blood flow. It is best to let your doctor know about your exercise programs at your first prenatal visit and get her opinion on its appropriateness during your pregnancy. Keep in mind you may have to tailor the intensity of your exercise program as your pregnancy progresses. Be careful with exercises like yoga and Pilates that require stretching — your joints and ligaments are looser during pregnancy, making you more injury prone. Finally, remember walking is a fantastic exercise and stress reliever. Put on your sneakers and get walking!
- Can I travel? Unless you have a high-risk pregnancy, the best time to travel is during the middle of pregnancy, between 14 and 28 weeks. You should consult with your doctor first, especially if traveling to foreign countries. Before you leave, scout out local hospitals with obstetric services and make sure you have a detailed copy of your pregnancy record with you at all times. During your travels make sure you drink plenty of fluids. If sitting for a long time during travel, make sure to get up and walk around at least once an hour to decrease your risk of forming blood clots in your legs. You may also want to consider wearing support or pressure stockings.
- What if I get sick? Tylenol is usually safe in pregnancy. It is best to check with your OB before taking any medication, even over-the-counter drugs. As for herbal medications, it's best to stay away from natural remedies that have not been studied in pregnancy. Herbal supplements like Echinacea are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and have not been studied in pregnancy. Urinary tract infections are common in pregnancy, so call your doctor if you experience burning and irritation during urination. Drinking lots of fluids when you're sick is even more important when you're pregnant. If your temperature is above 100.4, see your doctor. Avoid contact with people that are sick (i.e., children or co-workers with colds), wash your hands frequently, and use antibacterial gels which may help keep germs at bay.
- How do I plan for delivery while still working? The length of your maternity leave depends on a variety of factors, including whether you had any complications or if you are suffering from post-pregnancy issues like muscle pain or depression. Check your job's maternity leave policies early on. Return to work when you're physically and emotionally ready. Plan your delivery by getting your due date from your doctor and educate yourself about the signs of labor. Be ready with a game plan. Have a suitcase ready with key items you will need in the hospital. Make sure you have someone who can drive you to the hospital and take care of any of your other children while you're away.
For more information, patients may call 866-NYP-NEWS.
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, located in New York City, is one of the leading academic medical centers in the world, comprising the teaching hospital NewYork-Presbyterian and its academic partner, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia provides state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine, and is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education and community service. NewYork-Presbyterian, which is among U.S.News & World Report's top 10 hospitals nationally, also comprises NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and its academic affiliate, Weill Cornell Medical College.