15 Things Ob/Gyns Want Pregnant Women to Know
- Your Ob/Gyn Is Your Pregnancy PartnerThere’s a lot to learn when you become pregnant, and keeping up with all the latest information and advice can feel like a full-time job. Things always seem to be changing, and there are many misconceptions out there—about prenatal testing, labor and delivery, and postnatal care. Knowing what to listen to and what to ignore can be tricky. The best route is to consult with your doctor, and heed these top pieces of advice from some of today’s practicing Ob/Gyns.
- 1. “There are many forms of prenatal testing available during pregnancy.”It’s important to discuss which prenatal testing is best for you with your Ob/Gyn, says Shannon M. Clark, MD, associate professor in the Maternal Fetal Medicine Division at UTMB-Galveston. “Factors that play a role include age, a history of a genetic/chromosomal disorder or birth defect in a child of another family member, or the presence of abnormalities on your ultrasound. It’s not solely to screen for genetic/chromosomal abnormalities. An increased risk for placental abnormalities and birth defects can also be detected.”
- 2. “Your birth plan is not etched in stone.”If you want a birth plan, you should discuss it with your doctor well before delivery, advises Shannon L. Hardy, MD, FACOG, an Ob/Gyn with Complete Women’s Care Center at The Woman’s Hospital of Texas. This way, the doctor can explain what he or she is willing or not willing to accommodate. “The ultimate goal of any birth plan should be a healthy mom and baby,” Dr. Hardy notes. “Women should be flexible with their birth plans, realizing that their doctor is always looking out for the safety of mother and child. Things can happen during labor and delivery that necessitate changes to the plan.” She adds, “Finally, no woman should ever feel like she failed if her birth plan went out the window. The most important thing is that she has a healthy, beautiful baby!”
- 3. “You should NOT double your food intake just because you are pregnant.”Many people may tell you, "You are eating for two, go ahead and eat more." But you really only need about 300 extra calories in the second trimester and 500 calories in the third trimester, according to Diana E. Ramos, MD, MPH, adjunct assistant clinical professor, Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California . “Remember, gaining too much weight puts you at increased risk for complications, such as diabetes in pregnancy, high blood pressure, and C-section delivery,” she says.
- 4. “Remember to exercise and drink water!”The easiest way to get exercise during pregnancy is to walk. It will help your body and mind, and build endurance for delivery. “Make sure to talk to your doctor first to make sure there are no restrictions related to your pregnancy,” says Dr. Ramos. “Also, many pregnant women don't want to drink water because they don't like the taste or feel they will have to go to the bathroom more often. But drinking water will keep you hydrated." Dehydration can result in premature labor due to the decrease in blood volume and the increase in oxytocin, the hormone causes for contractions.
- 5. “Don’t postpone dental care.”A lot of women postpone dental care during pregnancy, according to Angela F. Falany, MD, an Ob/Gyn at North Georgia Ob/Gyn Specialists. “They put off treatment of cavities, dental cleanings and root canals for fear of harming their fetus or because it’s just another item on their pregnancy to-do list,” she says. “But dental X-rays with abdominal shielding and local lidocaine are not harmful to the fetus, and good oral hygiene is linked to good overall health. Tooth extraction, root canals, treatment of cavities, and dental cleaning can all be performed.”
- 6. “Get your flu vaccine during flu season for a healthy fetus.”When you’re pregnant, you are at an increased risk over the general population of serious flu complications, including death. That’s why it’s so important to get your flu vaccine during flu season, says Dr. Falany. “The vaccine is safe, and the protection is passed on to the fetus and protects the infant for up to six months after birth.” However, she says: “Do not use the nasal spray flu vaccine because it contains a live virus.”
- 7. “Some caffeine is OK during pregnancy.”A lot of women still crave their coffee during pregnancy, and that’s OK, as long as you stay within the magic number of 200 milligrams of caffeine per day, Dr. Falany says. “Eight ounces of brewed coffee has 163 milligrams of caffeine, 8 ounces of tea has 47 milligrams, and 12 ounces of Coke Classic contains 34 milligrams. For Starbucks lovers, unfortunately most products go over the 200 milligram mark, but you may want to try a grande café latte (150 milligrams), grande cappuccino (150 milligrams) or grande café mocha (175 milligrams).”
- 8. “Healthy pregnant women can get gestational diabetes, too.”Many patients have concerns that if they don’t eat right and exercise during pregnancy, they will develop gestational diabetes, or diabetes of pregnancy, according to Dr. Hardy. “While maintaining healthy diet and exercise are very important in general during pregnancy, it does not preclude someone from getting [gestational diabetes],” she says. “Gestational diabetes is actually caused by hormones produced by the placenta that interact with a patient’s own insulin-glucose regulation system. If a patient’s sugar-regulation system is overwhelmed by these hormones, it can lead to gestational diabetes.”
- 9. “Remember, a Cesarean section is major surgery.”Many women may think there are no complications with a cesarean section (C-section), and it's easier than a vaginal delivery. This isn’t accurate, says Dr. Ramos. “There are anesthesia and surgical risks for both mom and baby. You should have a C-section only if your doctor is recommending it because of pregnancy or medical complications.”
- 10. “Know the signs of preterm labor.”According to Dr. Ramos, signs of preterm labor include contractions that don't stop and are very painful, vaginal bleeding, and when your water breaks. “If any of these happen, talk to your doctor and seek medical attention. If you are going to have a preterm delivery, there are medications you can take to improve the health of your preterm baby.”
- 11. “During labor and delivery, there will be mucus, leakage of fluid, and blood—but it’s usually normal.”As the cervix dilates with progressing labor, release of mucus and some bleeding will occur due to the breakage of small blood vessels in the cervix. And when your cervix is examined by your Ob/Gyn, you may have a little more bleeding. In addition, says Dr. Clark, “When your water breaks, you may experience a continual leakage of amniotic fluid for the remainder of your labor. As a result, your nurse will change your hospital pads many times during the course of your labor.” She adds, “Once your baby is delivered, there can be what appears to be a significant amount of bleeding, especially after the placenta is delivered. This often surprises many women. Fortunately, the natural reaction of the uterus to contract after delivery limits the bleeding, and it is typically quickly controlled.”
- 12. “If a tear of your vaginal area occurs during delivery, ask your Ob/Gyn exactly where the tear(s) occurred.”Tears can occur not only with an episiotomy, but also without one, in all different parts of the female anatomy. “You may have tears of your vagina, labia, area surrounding your urethra, and the area between your vaginal and rectal openings,” notes Dr. Clark. “If you need to have a tear repaired, it’s important to ask your doctor exactly where the tear occurred. You may feel stitches when cleaning yourself and need to know exactly how to keep the area clean.” She adds, “If you have increased pain in those areas, you will need to notify your Ob/Gyn. And if you had a significant tear that involves your rectum, this may have an impact on how you deliver your next baby.”
- 13. “After delivery, your uterus will continue to contract.”Because the uterus is a muscle, its natural reaction is to contract once your baby and placenta have been delivered. “This helps stop the bleeding that occurs with delivery, and allows the uterus to contract over time back to its normal pre-pregnancy size,” explains Dr. Clark. “These contractions may continue for up to three days after delivery and may feel like bad menstrual cramps. In addition, your nurse will massage the top of your uterus periodically during the first 24 hours after you deliver to make sure your uterus is contracting properly, which may be uncomfortable.”
- 14. “Pregnancy isn’t over after delivering your baby.”Changes that can occur during the postpartum period can last up to 12 weeks after giving birth. “Swelling in the legs, feet, and hands can worsen in the immediate postpartum period and persist for several weeks following birth,” notes Dr. Hardy. “Most people also experience significant hair loss for several weeks and even months after delivery, which can be quite alarming.” Aside from physical effects, also watch for emotional symptoms. “Most women can expect mood swings and crying episodes, particularly in the first 1 to 2 weeks after giving birth, called the ‘baby blues’ or ‘postpartum blues,’ due to hormonal changes,” says Dr. Hardy. “If these mood swings and crying spells become excessive, you have a depressed mood, do not feel like you are bonding with your baby, or have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, please tell someone and call your doctor immediately. These may be signs of a more serious problem: postpartum depression.”
- 15. “Wait at least 18 to 24 months before your next pregnancy.”This will decrease your risk for preterm labor, anemia and other pregnancy complications, says Dr. Ramos. “This means you should talk with your provider and select the contraceptive method that will help you achieve that wait time. Your provider is your biggest advocate.”
15 Things Ob/Gyns Want Pregnant Women to Know