Many pregnant women worry too much about the wrong things, and pay less attention to issues that can genuinely harm their baby. Learn whether your fears are well-founded and what you can do to have a healthy and happy pregnancy.
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1. Birth defects
Majority of babies are born without a major birth defect, such as spina bifida or Down syndrome. Many birth defects, such as club foot, webbed toes and even some heart defects, are minor or very treatable.
If you’re not in a higher-risk group, the chances that you’ll have a baby with a birth defect may be even lower.
Risk factors include diabetes, epilepsy, smoking, drinking alcohol and obesity, although for 70 percent of all birth defects, the cause is unknown.
What to do: As soon as you decide you want a baby, take care of your body as if you’re already pregnant.
According to doctors, most structural birth defects occur as early as a week or two after a woman misses her period. Waiting until you know you’re pregnant may be too late to prevent these defects.
The risk of miscarriage is probably lower than assumed. For women younger than 35, it’s 10 to 12 percent; for 35- to 39-year-olds, it’s 18 percent.
It rises to 34 percent for women 40 to 44 years old. It’s reassuring to know that by the time you see a heartbeat on an ultrasound (usually by week six or seven), the chance of having a miscarriage drops to less than 5 percent.
What to do: Remind yourself that most miscarriages occur because of chromosomal abnormalities that can’t be prevented; research does not show that exercise, sex or even heavy lifting can cause a miscarriage.
One lifestyle caveat: Recent studies have shown that drinking two or more cups of coffee a day may increase your risk, as may contracting certain infections, including sexually transmitted diseases and gum disease.
3. Too much stress
Everyday stressors like arguing with your husband are not likely to pose a risk to your pregnancy or your child.
But ongoing major stress accompanied by depression (the two often go hand-in-hand) may increase your risk of preterm delivery or having a low-birth-weight baby or a child with long-term behavioural issues.
If you’re disadvantaged by stress in some way, you can’t get along with your husband or co-workers, and that’s when it may have an impact.
If your stress doesn’t reach that level, it may not be significant in terms of pregnancy complications.
What to do: If you’re stressed or depressed, see a psychiatrist or behavioral specialist who can teach you coping strategies, such as questioning the anxiety-causing chatter in your head. He or she can teach you relaxation exercises and visualization to lower your stress levels.
5. Labour pain
It would be a lie to say labour doesn’t hurt — most women rate it as a 7 or 8 out of 10 on the pain scale — but you have options when it comes to easing both your pain and your fear of it.
If you want to avoid medication, there’s much you can do to reduce the pain and the anxiety surrounding it, such as changing positions often during labour and practicing relaxation techniques. You may want to opt for pain medication.
If you’re worried about the risks, be assured that epidurals are safe and mother-friendly. Though you may have heard that pain medications prolong labour, they don’t prolong the first—and longest stage, and may even shorten it according to experts.
Epidurals tend to lengthen the shorter “pushing” phase because they dull the otherwise intense urge to push, but there’s no convincing evidence that they increase the risk of Caesarean section.
What to do: Learn about all your pain-relief options and their risks and benefits. Learn what to expect, because the unknown can cause more anxiety. If you know what is causing the pain, it can reduce your anxiety. Anxiety can cause tension, which can make breathing more difficult and the pain worse.
You may have heard one of your friends say that breastfeeding was “the hardest thing in the world.” The truth is, 90 percent or more of women can successfully breastfeed, given patience, realistic expectations and support.
Most women assume they’ll bond with the baby right away and breastfeed effortlessly. If they don’t, many new mothers worry that they’ve an unsolvable problem.
It takes two to three weeks before the mother and baby really know each other and the milk production matches the baby’s needs.
What to do: Before giving birth, imagine yourself happily nursing your baby, and have a midwife lined up to provide expert advice. Consider visiting a breastfeeding support group before your baby is born.
Women who have seen other women breastfeed are much more able to do so successfully. Nipple pain is a major reason women give up breastfeeding, but this can be avoided with a good grip on technique. If you experience even a little pain when nursing, seek help immediately.
Surround yourself with people who will be positive and supportive of your efforts to breastfeed. It’s a lot harder if you have people around you suggesting that you give the baby a bottle.
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