JustMommies met up with Liz Baker-Wade, RN (Founder of Birth & Beyond) and Cheryl Baker (Founder of Birth Partners) at their Santa Monica Childbirth Education Center. Liz has been a Labor and Delivery nurse for 18 years and Cheryl is a DONA certified Labor Doula, Certified Bradley Educator and Certified Lactation Educator from UCLA. Together, they will help us tackle the most common questions women have during pregnancy.
JustMommies: What are some foods to avoid during pregnancy?
Liz: Raw meat and raw fish should be avoided because of the risk of contamination with bacteria and salmonella. Sushi has been associated with parasites and mercury. If you do eat fish at all, it should be well cooked reaching at least 145 degrees for 10-15 seconds. California rolls (made with cooked crab) are ok. Seared tuna is not good enough. It has to be cooked all the way though. Canned, chunk light tuna generally has a lower amount of mercury, but the recommendation nowadays is to steer clear or have it in moderation.
Cheryl: You really should avoid processed lunchmeats because the nitrates and sodium levels are high, which is not good for your diet. If you are going to roast yourself a turkey in the oven and make a fresh cut turkey sandwich, that would be ok. Turkey and chicken off the bird are perfectly fine.
JustMommies: Is it ok to have a glass of wine every once in a while?
Liz: There is no amount of alcohol that is known to be safe during pregnancy, so alcohol should be avoided, especially during the first trimester. Prenatal exposure to alcohol can interfere with the development of the baby. Some doctors are lenient towards the end of the pregnancy but that is a very specific conversation that needs to happen between the patient and the doctor. The first trimester is a very important time because it is the neural tube development (brain and spinal cord). You want to be especially careful about drugs, medication and alcohol during the first trimester.
JustMommies: Should you avoid working on your tan?
Liz: The sun and using a tanning bed pose the same danger. They emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which causes skin cancer. Some literature suggests that the high temperature in a tanning bed or UV light can break down foliate. Foliate is one of the things we need for good neural tube development.
Cheryl: You have to be cautious of dehydration as well. Lying in a tanning bed or out in the sun for a long period of time can raise your body temperature to a level that may be hazardous to the baby. This can potentially cause preterm contractions.
JustMommies: How about hot tubs?
Liz: No. You have to be aware of the heat. Hot tubs at high temperatures are definitely not recommended at all throughout the entire pregnancy. No doctor is going to tell you it’s ok. Now, laboring in a hot tub where the temperature has been brought down to a comfortable warm is a wonderful thing. Approximately 100 degrees would be a safe temperature to labor in.
JustMommies: Can you exercise?
Cheryl: Absolutely. Prenatal yoga is a wonderful conditioning exercise that helps to stretch and tone the muscles that are going to be used during labor. The movements you learn in class are conducive to getting the baby into the optimal fetal position, which is something we really strive to attain during pregnancy. The breathing that is taught is fantastic as well. It gets a lot of oxygen into the muscles and helps women relax more. They also teach relaxation exercises near the end of the yoga class, which can be very helpful in labor. Hiking, walking and swimming are also great, safe sports to participate in.
JustMommies: Will stress affect your baby during pregnancy?
Liz: There are some studies that suggest very high levels of stress can slightly increase the rate of miscarriage late in the first trimester. Now, this is a very broad statement because it is difficult to put a label on how much stress is too much. But certainly, stress does affect our overall well-being, so I’m sure there are some effects on the baby. Instead of keeping your fears to yourself, it’s important to talk to a trusted professional early on.
JustMommies: Is air travel safe?
Cheryl: It can be perfectly safe to fly up to 36 weeks, as long as there are no contraindications such as preterm labor, bleeding, high blood pressure, etc. Be sure to talk to your doctor before you book your flight. The recommendation is to be in a commercial type of airplane, where it is pressurized. It’s probably a good idea to avoid flying during your final month when you are likely to go into labor.
JustMommies: What are the best sleep positions?
Liz: Unfortunately, your regular sleep positions may no longer work during pregnancy. After the first trimester, you want to avoid sleeping on your back. The large baby, pushing down on the great vessels (the aorta and vena cava) can cause hypotension and decrease blood flow to the placenta. We recommend side sleeping when you get really big. This will increase the amount of blood and nutrients that reach the placenta and your baby. Try keeping your legs and knees bent and a pillow between your legs.
JustMommies: There are some urban legends about cats. Can babies and cats coexist? Liz: You don’t have to give up your pet. The big concern during pregnancy is toxoplasmosis, which is a parasite that can cause illness. If you have to handle kitty litter, then you must use disposable gloves and wash your hands thoroughly. Best possibility to stay safe… farm that job out to your husband or partner! When the baby is born, there are ways to keep your cat out of the crib. You can purchase a net to put over the crib so your cat can’t sleep with your baby. If you are worried about your cat scratching your newborn, you can regularly trim your cat's claws or use Soft Paws, which are plastic caps you glue over your cat's claws.
JustMommies: Hair dye and pregnancy- not a safe mix?
Liz: You should wait until after the first trimester, because safe levels of hair dye have not been determined. When you dye or highlight your hair, a small amount is absorbed into your body. Talk to your doctor before booking any treatments.
JustMommies: What about facials, chemical peels, botox?
Liz: Steer clear from any intensive, invasive skin care procedures. Botox is contraindicated, it says so on the label. That is a big no-no, along with chemical peels or fillers. Whatever is injected will go into your blood stream and can reach the fetus. Certain facials should be fine, but check with your doctor first.
JustMommies: Are massages ok?
Cheryl: We love massages and highly recommend them. A relaxed mom is going to have a nicer labor. Massages will bring down the stress levels as well. Make sure the therapist is well aware that you are pregnant and knows how to position you. It’s important not to be flat on your back or hit any pressure points that might trigger contractions.
JustMommies: Let’s talk about caffeine.
Liz: There has been a lot of controversy about caffeine. Most studies show that caffeine intake in moderation is ok ~ which is 300 mg per day during pregnancy. That is the equivalent of 1 good strong cup of coffee. We get caffeine from other sources as well, such as sodas or chocolate. It is important that you are drinking plenty of water, juice, and milk rather than caffeinated beverages. Some research shows that large amounts of caffeine are associated with miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, and withdrawal symptoms in infants.
JustMommies: Are medicines off limits during pregnancy?
Liz: Some medicines are ok. If you are sick and your doctor thinks you have a bacterial infection, it’s better to take the antibiotics to get well. There are certain medications that you want to stay away from. Cough and cold remedies often contain several ingredients such as painkillers, antihistamines and decongestants, so it’s important to make sure each ingredient is safe before taking them. Always check with your doctor before taking anything.
Cheryl: The same goes for herbs. All herbs are just like drugs and we have to consider the safety level. Just because it’s an over-the-counter type of remedy, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily safe for pregnancy. Ginger and peppermint have proven to really help with morning sickness, but you want to consult with your doctor first and they can guide you through the use of homeopathic remedies. Don’t ever hesitate to ask questions about a food, medication or activity you are interested in engaging in. It’s important to have an understanding of what the risks and benefits are. There are many professionals out there ready to help, and we all want a healthy mom and healthy baby at the end of the day.
For more information on Liz and Cheryl’s services, please visitwww.birthandbeyond.net.