Staying Healthy

Oral Health

Before you become pregnant, it is best to have dental checkups routinely to keep your teeth and gums healthy. If you are pregnant and have not had regular checkups, consider the following:

  • Have a complete oral exam early in your pregnancy. Because you are pregnant, you might not receive routine x-rays. But if you must have x-rays for a dental problem needing treatment, the health risk to your unborn baby is small.
  • Dental treatment during pregnancy is safe. The best time for treatment is between the 14th and 20th weeks. During the last months of pregnancy, you might be uncomfortable sitting in a dental chair.
  • Do not avoid necessary dental treatments - you may risk your and your baby's health.
  • Use good oral hygiene to control your risk of gum diseases. Pregnant women may have changes in taste and develop red, swollen gums that bleed easily. This condition is called pregnancy gingivitis (jin-juh-VYT-uhss). It can be caused by both poor oral hygiene and higher hormone levels during pregnancy. Until recently, it was thought that having gum disease could raise your risk of having a low birth weight baby. Researchers have not been able to confirm this link, but some research is still under way to learn more.

After you give birth, maintain good oral hygiene to protect your baby's oral health. Bacteria that cause cavities can transfer from you to your child by:

  • A kiss on the mouth
  • Letting your baby put her fingers in your mouth
  • Tasting food on your baby's spoon
  • Testing the temperature of a baby bottle with your mouth

Using Medicine and Herbs

You and your baby are connected. The medicines you use, including over-the-counter, herbal, and prescription drugs or supplements, might get into your baby's body, too. Many medicines and herbs are known to cause problems during pregnancy, including birth defects. For some medicines, we don't know that much about how they might affect pregnancy or the developing fetus. This is because medicines are rarely tested on pregnant women for fear of harming the fetus.

Mothers-to-be might wonder if it's safe to use medicines during pregnancy. There is no clear-cut answer to this question. Your doctor can help you make the choice whether to use a medicine. Labels on prescription and over-the-counter drugs have information to help you and your doctor make this choice. In the future, a new prescription drug label will make it easier for women and their doctors to weigh the benefits and risks of using prescription medicines during pregnancy.

Always speak with your doctor before you start or stop any medicine. Not using medicine that you need may be more harmful to you and your baby than using the medicine. Weighing benefits and risks

When deciding whether to use a medicine in pregnancy, you and your doctor need to talk about the medicine's benefits and the risks.

  • Benefits - what are the good things the medicine can do for me and my growing baby?
  • Risks - what are the ways the medicine might harm me or my growing baby?

There may be times during pregnancy when using medicine is a choice. For example, if you get a cold, you may decide to "live with" your stuffy nose instead of using the "stuffy nose" medicine you use when you are not pregnant

Other times during pregnancy, using medicine is not a choice - it is needed. For example, you might need to use medicine to control an existing health problem like asthma, diabetes, depression, or seizures. Or, you might need a medicine for a few days, such as an antibiotic to treat a bladder infection or strep throat. Also, some women have a pregnancy problem that needs medicine treatment. These problems include severe nausea and vomiting, earlier pregnancy losses, or preterm labor.

Using herbal or dietary supplements and other "natural" products

You might think herbs are safe because they are "natural." But, except for some vitamins, little is known about using herbal or dietary supplements while pregnant. Some herbal remedy labels claim they will help with pregnancy. But, most often there are no good studies to show if these claims are true or if the herb can cause harm to you or your baby. Also, some herbs that are safe when used in small amounts as food might be harmful when used in large amounts as medicines. So, talk with your doctor before using any herbal or dietary supplement or natural product. These products may contain things that could harm you or your growing baby.

Having Sex

Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, sex is safe. You may find that your interest in sex changes during pregnancy. Talk to your partner about other positions if the way you usually have sex is awkward or no longer feels good. Call your doctor if sex causes:

  • Pain
  • Vaginal Bleeding
  • Fluid Leakage

Environmental Risks

The environment is everything around us wherever we are - at home, at work, or outdoors. Although you don't need to worry about every little thing you breathe in or eat, it's smart to avoid exposure to substances that might put your pregnancy or unborn baby's health at risk.

During pregnancy, avoid exposure to:

  • Lead found in some water and paints, mainly in homes built before 1978
  • Mercury the harmful form is found mainly in large, predatory fish.
  • Arsenic high levels can be found in some well water
  • Pesticides both household products and agricultural pesticides
  • Solvents such as degreasers and paint strippers and thinners
  • Cigarette smoke

Keep in mind: We don't know how much exposure can lead to problems, such as miscarriage or birth defects. That is why it's best to avoid or limit your exposure as much as possible. Here are some simple, day-to-day precautions you can take:

  • Clean in only well-ventilated spaces. Open the windows or turn on a fan.
  • Check product labels for warnings for pregnant women and follow instructions for safe use.
  • Do not clean the inside of an oven while pregnant.
  • Leave the house if paint is being used, and don't return until the fumes are gone.

If you are exposed to chemicals in the workplace, talk to your doctor and your employer about what you can do to lower your exposure. Certain industries, such as dry cleaning, manufacturing, printing, and agriculture, involve use of toxins that could be harmful. If you are concerned about the safety of your drinking water, call your health department or water supplier to ask about the quality of your tap water or how to have your water tested. Or, call the Environmental Protection Agency's Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791. Don't assume that bottled water is better or safer. Usually, bottle water offers no health benefits over tap water.

When To Call The Doctor

When you are pregnant, do not hesitate to call your doctor or midwife if something is bothering or worrying you. Sometimes physical changes can be signs of a problem.

Call your doctor or midwife as soon as you can if you:

  • Are bleeding or leaking fluid from the vagina
  • Have sudden or severe swelling in the face, hands, or fingers
  • Get severe or long-lasting headaches
  • Have discomfort, pain, or cramping in the lower abdomen
  • Have a fever or chills
  • Are vomiting or have persistent nausea
  • Feel discomfort, pain, or burning with urination
  • Have problems seeing or blurred vision
  • Feel dizzy
  • Suspect your baby is moving less than normal after 28 weeks of pregnancy (if you count less than 10 movements within 2 hours. Learn how to count your baby's movements on our Prenatal care and tests page.)
  • Have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

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