How to Sort Through All the News on Pregnancy
Feb. 20, 2001 -- For pregnant women, it's 'do this', 'don't do
that'. Or perhaps this sounds familiar: 'you must not do this, you
must do that.'
In recent weeks, there has been a dizzying array of news from
many different sources on what you can and can't do while pregnant -- from
taking common medicines or having sex to having a cup of java to get going in
the a.m. Here's what you need to know to keep it all straight:
Cup of Joe
So, what's the deal with coffee? According to women's health
expert Donnica Moore, MD, president of Sapphire Women's Health Group in
Neshanic Station, N.J., "Five or more cups of coffee a day can double your
risk of miscarriage during the first trimester and three to five cups per day
ups risk of miscarriage by 30% in the first trimester." These findings were reported
recently in the New England Journal of Medicine.
"Are you free and clear after the first 12 weeks?
Not necessarily," she says. "In the third trimester caffeine can
contribute to preterm labor."
Moore's advice: "Limit caffeinated beverages to one per day
or avoid them all together. The March of Dimes and Food and Drug Administration
say to avoid caffeinated beverages all together," she points out.
Several new studies suggest that cough medicine containing the
cough suppressant dextomethorphan does not raise risk of birth defects in
pregnant women. Three years ago, a study found that this cough suppressant did,
in fact, cause birth defects -- in chick embryos. But recent studies, with humans, have not
supported the link between the over-the-counter cough suppressant and major or
minor birth defects.
Over-the-Counter Pain Medication
study recently found that a class of popular painkillers called
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Aleve, ibuprofen (Advil
and Motrin) and perhaps even aspirin may increase the risk of miscarriage --
but they did not up the risk of birth defects or undergrown or premature
"Women have to talk to their doctor regarding medication
use during pregnancy on an individual case-by-case basis," Moore advises.
"As in any situation, we are always weighing risks and benefits --
especially with prescription medications."
For example, if a mother has severe asthma and can't breathe
without her medication, then the benefits of using the medicine during
pregnancy will outweigh the risks to the fetus, Moore explains.
"In cases where we have choices between medications, we try
to choose the one that is known to be the least toxic to the fetus and still
gives the mom the benefit of the drug," she says.
For over-the counter-medications: "Read the label, read the
label, read the label," Moore says.
"And talk to your doctor."
Pregnancy and sex
The idea that continuing to engage in sexual activity in the last trimester of
your pregnancy increases your risk of premature delivery appears to be
unfounded for most healthy women.