If you’re pregnant — or you’ve ever been pregnant — chances are you’ve asked Dr. Google some questions like: Do I really have to give up sushi? Can I still take that trip to Hawaii? What’s the deal with those super-expensive prenatal vitamins?
Good news: finding trustworthy answers just got easier. Nathan Fox, a New York-based obstetrician/gynecologist who specializes in maternal fetal medicine, recently published a paper called “Dos and Don’ts in Pregnancy: Truths and Myths.”
The paper’s aim is to help pregnant women make educated decisions about “what they should and should not do to minimize risk and optimize outcomes,” reads the paper’s abstract. “In the age of the internet, women are now bombarded with information and recommendations, which are often confusing at best and conflicting at worst. The objective of this review is to present current, evidence-based recommendations for some of the things that pregnant women should and should not routinely do during pregnancy.”
Written in straightforward language, it’s a simple, easy-to-follow guide.
“Women looking for absolute answers won’t find many here,” reads a WBUR story about the paper. “In most cases, readers still need to decide for themselves how much uncertainty they can manage. But Fox offers a concise tool to help — and definitely more reliable data than the commenters in that online pregnancy forum you’ve been trawling.”
So, can you get that maki roll combo for lunch tomorrow? Here are some things to know:
1. There is no “ideal” prenatal vitamin. In fact, their “necessity for all pregnant women is uncertain,” according to Fox, though they are unlikely to be harmful. Pregnant women should make sure that their diet includes sufficient folic acid, vitamin D, iron, and calcium.
2. Avoid alcohol (but one glass of wine is probably not going to cause harm). Several large studies have found no link between a mother’s light or moderate drinking with developmental problems in their children later in life. The problem: “the threshold for safe consumption is not known,” Fox writes.
3. It’s OK to start off the day with a cup of joe. As long as your coffee drinking is low to moderate, you should be totally fine. “Most data in humans suggest that low-to-moderate caffeine intake in pregnancy is not associated with any adverse outcome,” Fox writes.
4. Have a bit of sushi! Most health organizations, says Fox, advise pregnant women to avoid raw or undercooked seafood. But sushi “prepared in a clean and reputable establishment is unlikely to pose a risk,” he said. Just avoid fish — raw or cooked — that’s high in mercury. (In general, avoiding fish high in mercury is a good rule of thumb for anyone.)
5. Definitely have sex (if you’re in the mood). Fox writes that there’s generally no medical reason you can’t get it on. However, he added, in the case of placenta previa, most doctors recommend to avoid sex after 20 weeks.
6. Move it. Women experiencing “uncomplicated pregnancies” should aim for 20 to 30 minutes of “moderate-intensity” exercise four or five times a week. “Bedrest, or activity restriction, is associated with several risks and has not been shown to be beneficial in pregnancy,” he writes.
7. Air travel is OK (especially early on). Don’t be worry about going through airport security — the radiation exposure is insignificant. On long flights, it’s smart to wear compression socks or take occasional walks to lower the risk of thrombosis. “As pregnancy progresses, the risk of several pregnancy complications increases,” Fox notes, adding that there’s no “exact gestational age” in which pregnant women should stop traveling.
8. You don’t have to sleep on your side. It’s commonly recommended for pregnant women to sleep on their left side, aiding circulation to the fetus. While there’s “biological plausibility” for the recommendation, studies are limited, says Fox, adding, “there’s no data that shows side-sleeping actually prevents stillbirths.”
Check out the full paper for more. You’re welcome!