Safety during pregnancy

tour special needs family

On an average day, you stumble out of bed and slip on your running shoes.

Then, there's a hot shower, a cup of coffee, a stressful day on the job, no lunch, a glass of wine with dinner and, finally, bed-time -- much later than you had planned.

This may sound pretty routine to most people, but certain components to the average day can be harmful to the pregnant woman and her growing child.

This article will discuss safety during pregnancy.


The media is abuzz about the harmful side effects of cigarette smoking and second-hand smoke.

Experts now agree that smoking during pregnancy can deprive growing fetuses of life sustaining elements such as oxygen and other nutrients.

Is it any surprise, then, that Dr. Ed Shaxted, an obstetrician and gynecologist in the United Kingdom, would list smoking as the top activity to stop for safety during pregnancy.

For some women, the knowledge that they are pregnant gives them enough power to quit on the spot. "The incentive of the pregnancy made it easy to quit most of the time. The night I took the home pregnancy test and it showed positive, I pushed the pack away from me and said, "I quit."

For others, dads-to-be included, a gradual approach is more realistic. "He reduced his smoking by one cigarette every three or four days until he was smoking no more. Some also even try those vaping devices (like vaporizers sold here since many agree that it's a very good way to start on the path of quitting smoking and it is quite effective."

Drinking and eating for safety during maternity

A cup of coffee. A can of cola. A glass of wine. Are they really that big of a deal?

The jury is still out. But one thing is certain: There is enough research to indicate that the possibility for harm is there, especially when caffeine and alcohol are used in large quantities, to warrant dropping the alcohol and even small amounts of caffeine for child-bearing safety.

To be safe, reach for decaffeinated coffees and teas, replace the cola with a much-needed glass of water, and relax with the help of soft music and massage.

A large order of fries; a loaded pizza; a skipped breakfast or two. How much does perfect nutrition really matter?

"I am, and always have been, a junk-food junkie," says Kyle Looby of Springfield, Ill. "It was very hard to change that when I became pregnant. But for the sake of my baby, I did."

Most experts agree that poor nutrition can lead to low birth weight, prematurity and even birth defects. And it's not just what you do eat that affects your pregnancy; it's also what you don't eat.

When Susan Chyczewski, of State College, Penn., found out she was pregnant, she knew she had work to do. "I had to change my eating habits," she says. "[I had to stop] skipping meals."

Self-Medicating and pregnancy safety

Pregnant women are not immune to headaches, colds and allergies. While a sniffle and a sneeze might send your non-pregnant self to the medicine cabinet, it's important that you are absolutely certain the medication you are taking will be safe for your baby.

Many obstetricians will provide you with a list of safe over-the-counter medicines. If you are ever in doubt, call your doctor before you start taking any questionable drug.

Likewise, your doctor's advice is needed before you stop taking any prescription medications. Some illnesses pose a much greater threat to the pregnancy than do the medications for controlling the illnesses.

Physical activities and child-bearing safety

It's not just what you're putting into your body that can be harmful. What you're doing physically also can pose risks to the baby growing inside of you.

"I had to limit my snow skiing after becoming pregnant," says Judith Turner, of Salt Lake City, Utah. "The obstetrician expressed particular concern about the first and last trimesters."

Hormonal changes and shifts in your body's center of gravity can make your normal recreational activities hazardous during pregnancy.

"Avoid dangerous sports [such as] hang-gliding [and] bungee jumping," says Dr. Shaxted. "Remember that horse riding is the most dangerous sport [here] in the United Kingdom."

And you shouldn't simply be concerned with your recreational activities. How you make your living could pose a threat to your unborn child.

Jobs that require extensive physical strain, exposure to chemicals or a high-pressure atmosphere are not conducive to a healthy pregnancy. While the paycheck might be keeping you afloat, staying on the job might not be the wisest thing to do.

The bottom line is if you can't quit completely, lessen the activity. And that goes for anything that might come into question during your pregnancy. By playing it safe, your healthy baby will thank you.

You've been to the doctor and he confirmed what you already suspected: In less than 9 months, a new life will depend on you to love, nurture and provide for him or her. Before you decide on the style of baby furniture, however, you probably will need to decide how and when to tell your boss you'll need some time off work.

The law is on the side of expectant moms. "U.S. protections are extensive for pregnant working women and they should take maximum advantage of them, like knowing that their husbands are eligible for certain childcare leave, too, including a guarantee of reinstatement."

In the United States, if you work for a company with at least 50 employees, you are protected by the Family Medical and Leave Act. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects female employees who work for companies with at least 15 employees. Under the FMLA, a new parent is guaranteed 12 weeks leave if after working 12 months or 1,250 hours (the 12 months do not have to be consecutive). The PDA states that an employer must treat pregnant women the same as other employees with nonpregnancy-related disabilities.

Many larger companies may offer a percentage of earned wages during the leave and continue health, life and other benefits. You are also guaranteed the same or similar job of comparable pay and responsibilities when you return from leave. Federal law protects you and state laws mirror their federal counterparts. Some states, such as Texas, offer no additional protections for pregnant working women, while California's and Washington's protections expand upon those of the federal government.

Use the "PDA" System to Tell Your Boss

Prepare yourself. Learn about the law and your rights and obligations. Study your workplace, your employer's particular policies, past practices and experiences of pregnant employees and management attitudes.

Can you maintain the job's responsibilities while dealing with morning sickness and lack of sleep? You should know that an employer can terminate for lack of performance if his standards are applied to all employees equally.

Decide what you want to do. How much time does your doctor want you to take off work for delivery and how much time can you afford to take off to be with your newborn? Are you going to return to work after the baby is born and in what capacity? Do you want to resume your full-time career or do you want to switch to part-time?

Announce to your employer that you are pregnant. Do it in person, but also put it in writing so that it's properly documented. Tell him your intentions and decisions. Pick a good time to address your manager; consider approaching him after a big sale or successful completion of a challenging project when success is still fresh. Be sensitive to the moods of the office; if tempers are high or your boss has just had some bad news, wait a day or two. Your good news will be better received if there are fewer stresses in the picture.

Respect your employer's legitimate right to know what you intend, and they're more likely to willingly cooperate with and respect the decisions you make. Employers appreciate employees letting them know early, and feel that it demonstrates a level of professionalism and commitment to work. Whatever you do, try to make sure that the news come from you -- not from a co-worker.

Whenever you involve attorneys it becomes an adversarial problem, not the relationship most women want with their employers. Talk to other women in the workplace to find out how their news was received. Talk to friends in similar circumstances. Contact your human resources department and raise hypothetical questions.

If You Suspect Discrimination

"Before a victimized woman can go to court, she must first go to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, and let it investigate and try to solve the problem," Simpson says. The EEOC is a federal agency that has offices in each state and will examine your claim before it goes to court. But be aware that there are time restrictions on these laws; if you feel your rights have been infringed, seek help as soon as possible.

For most women, there are very few problems involving pregnancy in the workplace. Many companies value and celebrate their employees and family life. Sandy Chene says her employers welcome children in the office when they are out of school or there is a problem with childcare. Many companies want to keep women at all levels and realize that won't happen if their female employees are treated unfairly.

The Family and Medical Leave Act and Parental Rights

There are no data in humans to indicate that pregnant women should limit exercise intensity and lower target heart rates because of potential adverse effects. For women who do not have any additional risk factors for adverse maternal or perinatal outcome, the following recommendations may be made:

During pregnancy, women can continue to exercise and derive health benefits even from mild to moderate exercise routines. Regular exercise (at least three times per week) is preferable to intermittent activity. Women should avoid exercise in the supine position [lying on the back] after the first trimester. Prolonged periods of motionless standing should also be avoided.

Women should be aware of the decreased oxygen available for aerobic exercise during pregnancy. They should be encouraged to modify the intensity of their exercise according to maternal symptoms.

Pregnant women should stop exercising when fatigued and not exercise to exhaustion.

Weight-bearing exercises may under some circumstances be continued at intensities similar to those prior to pregnancy throughout pregnancy. Non-weight bearing exercises such as cycling or swimming will minimize the risk of injury and facilitate the continuation of exercise during pregnancy.

Loss of balance could be detrimental to maternal or fetal well being, especially in the third trimester. Further, any type of exercise involving the potential for even mild abdominal trauma should be avoided.

Pregnancy requires an additional 300kcal/d in order to maintain metabolic homeostasis. Thus women who exercise during pregnancy should be particularly careful to ensure an adequate diet.

Pregnant women who exercise in the first trimester should augment heat dissipation by ensuring adequate hydration, appropriate clothing and optimal environmental surroundings during exercise.

Many of the physiologic and morphologic changes of pregnancy persist 4-6 weeks postpartum. Thus pre-pregnancy exercise routines should be resumed gradually based on a woman's physical capability.

Contraindications to Exercise for maternity safety

The aforementioned recommendations are intended for women who do not have any additional risk factors for adverse maternal or perinatal outcome. A number of medical and obstetric conditions may lead the obstetrician to recommend modifications of these principles. The following conditions should be considered contraindications to exercise during pregnancy:

Pregnancy induced hypertension
Pre-term rupture of membranes
Pre-term labor during the prior or current pregnancy or both
Incompetent cervix/cerclage
Persistent second or third trimester bleeding
Intrauterine growth retardation
Multiple gestation

In addition women with certain other medical or obstetric conditions, including chronic hypertension or active thyroid, cardiac, vascular or pulmonary disease, should be evaluated carefully in order to determine whether an exercise program is appropriate during your pregnancy.

Additional special needs pregnancy resources

Save Babies Through Screening - A Parent's Resource on Newborn Screening - Newborn Screening Information  Find out what your state screens for, answers to frequently asked questions, and much more.

Injured Newborn Current statistics show that thousands of babies are injured each year during the birthing process resulting in an impairment to the brachial plexus.

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