There’s a lot of chatter lately about the sacrifices one is expected to make during pregnancy. The controversy stems from the new book, “Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong-and What You Really Need to Know” by Emily Oster. Oster is an economist – not a health professional – and we’re concerned about her claims. For example, check out this response from Canada Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Research Network. (If you want even more information, see the NOFAS response, which includes a breakdown of the facts.)
I get it. It’s no fun having to turn down the glass of wine offered at girls’ night out when you’re two months along (a sure-fire way to set off the “OMGareyoupregnant?!” barrage of questions). Turning down the delicious homemade Caesar salad dressing my mom made for Thanksgiving because it had raw egg in it. Counting my “real” coffees and drinking lots of decaf. Suffering through that nasty summer cold I caught instead of popping decongestant pills. Saying “no thank you” to the eggnog and soft cheeses at a Christmas party. For a whole nine months!
I did it. I avoided everything. And I did it with gratitude. But not because I wanted to gloat, or say I was perfect or anything like that. No. I did it because I wanted to do everything right by my little peanut growing inside me. Wanted to give him or her the best shot at life I could possibly give. I wanted that baby to know he or she was so important to me, so loved, that giving up all of those things were worth it.
Because, the thing is, if something happened to my little peanut, I knew I would evaluate every single thing I did and ate, and even thought of, during my entire pregnancy; looking for something I did wrong; looking to blame myself. You see, I’ve been there before. I lost two pregnancies before my Pumpkin came along. I wouldn’t wish that kind of anguish on anyone.
Here are the recommendations to reduce the risk that something might go wrong:
- There is no safe amount or safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy. It’s not safe at the very beginning of your pregnancy, and it’s still not safe when you are 3 days overdue. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, “Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is the leading known cause of preventable developmental disability among Canadians.”
- Avoid foods that may contain bacteria and parasites which can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, illness in the mother, and severe illness or disability in the newborn.
- High caffeine intake is associated with miscarriages – stick to less than 300mg of caffeine a day. (Check your coffee size! That’s about two 8oz coffees or less.)
- Do not use marijuana (or other street drugs for that matter!) Studies on marijuana use during pregnancy have shown marijuana affects the growing baby’s brain development.
- Almost all medications cross the placenta, exposing your baby. Check all prescription and non-prescription drugs, including herbal or natural drugs with your health care provider. Motherisk is a great resource as well.
- Just like with herbal drugs, avoid most herbal teas. Click here for a list of safe herbal teas.
- Quit smoking – smoking increases the risk of pregnancy complications and having a lower birth weight baby. Second hand smoke is associated with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), breathing problems, ear infections, sleep problems and colic. For help quitting, check out Expecting to Quit.
The pregnancy seems so long when you are actually living it, but once you have that baby in your arms, it’s a distant memory. Nine months pales in comparison to the lifetime your baby has ahead of him or her. Avoiding certain foods, alcohol, caffeine and medications – is a tiny price to pay for your baby’s health and your own piece of mind.
This doesn’t mean you have to be alone in your “sacrifices”. I encourage all dads-to-be to support their partners by refraining from alcohol and the foods their partner needs to avoid.
- For the coffee-drinker, decaf lattes can be a great way to enjoy the taste of coffee while getting an extra boost of calcium.
- Try a flavourful juice like grape or pomegranate juice mixed with sparkling water as a “fancy” drink to have with friends. Have extras handy – you might be surprised by others wanting to try your yummy virgin drink! Check out Mocktails for Mom for some other recipes you can have fun making and trying.
- There are a wonderful assortment of hard cheeses (e.g., Colby, Swiss, Aged Cheddar, Havarti) and dairy products to enjoy during pregnancy… be sure to look for the word “pasteurized” when choosing dairy products, cheese or other beverages like juices, cider and eggnog.
Share with us the alternatives you enjoyed while pregnant – we love to hear from you! There are many ways you can connect with us: