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The Real Do’s and Don’ts of Pregnancy
By Emma Carroll, MD
With all the pregnancy myths and old wives' tales that have circulated for generations, it's hard for an expectant mother to know what's fact from fiction. Cautionary tales abound about what pregnant women can eat, drink, and do - and the confusion that results can have you spinning in circles. We want to put to bed some of the most common pregnancy myths - and share some advice that actually holds true.
Do enjoy caffeine in moderation.
While downing eight cups of coffee each day is a no-no, most physicians agree that you can still enjoy your daily cup of joe. While the intake of large amounts of caffeine during pregnancy has been linked to low birth weight in babies, moderate amounts of coffee and other caffeinated beverages are fine.
Don't count on cocoa butter to prevent stretch marks.
While it's a great moisturizer, no topical lotion can penetrate deeply enough to prevent stretch marks - and overuse of the product can result in skin irritation.
Do care for your cat.
Well-meaning advice to the contrary, it's fine for you to spend time with your beloved pets. And while you can even clean up after your dog, it's true that you shouldn't empty your cat's litter box.
Don't skip your beauty routine.
Some people think you have to forgo skincare products and hair color throughout your pregnancy, but that's not true. With the exception of strong salicylic acid products, you can continue your usual makeup and skincare routine - and as long as your hair is colored in a well-ventilated area, you can highlight and lowlight with confidence.
Do enjoy spicy foods.
In spite of the long-held belief that spicy foods will induce preterm labor, you can enjoy your jambalaya and habaneros throughout pregnancy. You may find, however, that you are more susceptible to heartburn or acid reflux during some phases of pregnancy when you eat spicy foods.
Don't sleep on your back.
It's true that while you're pregnant you should avoid sleeping on your back and opt for sleeping on your left side. This helps with blood flow by keeping your weight off an artery that supplies oxygen and nutrients to the baby.
Do keep up the exercise.
If you're already exercising, it's safe to continue the activities you love. If you weren't exercising before pregnancy, you'll need to check with your physician about how to ease into an exercise program that's right for you.
Don't swim in public pools.
While it's not true that the baby can drown if you swim, it is true that public swimming pools may harbor too much bacteria that can cross the placenta. Swimming in a backyard pool should be a safe alternative if it's kept clean.
Do limit some foods and avoid others.
Processed meats, unpasteurized cheeses, and certain fish such as shark, swordfish, orange roughy, snapper, bigeye tuna, and mackerel should be avoided. Fish with lower mercury content, like light tuna or salmon, can be enjoyed in strictly limited amounts, as can alcoholic beverages, like wine, or herbal teas.
Even with all of these, there are still countless more myths, do's, don'ts, and points of confusion for pregnant women - so if you're pregnant and unsure about anything you're eating, taking, drinking, or doing, be sure to ask your OB/GYN what he or she recommends for you and your baby.
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