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How to Sort Through All the News on Pregnancy

Pregnancy and sex continued...

Though it's true that a small amount of substances known to trigger labor are found in the man's semen -- and that labor-triggering substances are released when the woman's nipples are stimulated and during orgasm -- doctors say the risk of labor isn't high enough to warn most women and their partners against making love in the weeks prior to their term (37 weeks).

"We found no evidence that sexual activity in late pregnancy increased a woman's risk of preterm delivery between 29 and 36 weeks' gestation," reports Amy E. Sayle, PhD, lead author of a study published in the February issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Moore agrees. "For a generally healthy woman with a generally uncomplicated pregnancy, sex is safe -- even late in pregnancy," she tells WebMD.

Sayle writes, though, that her study does suggest that a small percentage of women who have risk factors for preterm delivery could further increase their risk by engaging in sex. Risk factors for preterm delivery include having had a previous preterm delivery or other pregnancy-related problem, contracting certain vaginal infections, having uterine bleeding during your pregnancy, and smoking, drinking alcohol, or using drugs.

Other obstetricians and high-risk pregnancy experts do advise women at risk of preterm delivery to avoid intercourse. Ask your doctor about your risk factors and whether or not you should engage in sexual activity.

Seafood

According to a recent report from the FDA, pregnant women should avoid eating certain species of large ocean fish including shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish because they may contain harmful mercury kevels that may harm the nervous system of a developing fetus.

Michele Curtis, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas at Houston tells WebMD that if you eat seafood, "be aware of what the local health department has said if about fish in that area." If you are a sushi fan, "make sure that you go to a reputable restaurant that handles foods properly to minimize the risk of bacterial infections."

More importantly, she says, pregnant women should not consume unpasteurized milk or cheese because it can contain Listeria, which can cause an infection that can sometimes lead to death of the baby. "Some European countries don't pasteurize milk or cheese so be wary when traveling in European countries, " Curtis says.

Aside from the dos and don'ts recently in the news, there are also some tried and true guidelines pregnant women can follow.

First and foremost, "women should continue to have a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy just as they did before pregnancy," says Gideon Koren, MD, director of the Motherisk program, a Canadian organization designed to provide information to pregnant women and their doctors on environmental agents and drugs during pregnancy.

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