Tag Archives: Pregnancy

Alcohol Effects on Conceiving and Pregnancy

Alcohol Effects on Conceiving and Pregnancy

You can drink until the line on the pregnancy test is pink, your girlfriends say. Sounds catchy and you like not putting your life on hold until the magic moment of conception occurs. But you wonder: Are there reasons not to drink alcohol while you’re trying, and hoping, to become pregnant?

As with all health decisions, consider the evidence so you can make an informed choice that you can live with later. Here’s what you should know:

Does drinking affect my fertility?

Yes, several well-done studies have shown that drinking even 1 to 5 drinks a week decreases a woman’s fertility. Women undergoing in vitro fertilization showed a significant decrease in their odds of a live birth when they drank 4 or more drinks per week, according to Harvard University.

What about alcohol and men’s fertility?

Men don’t get a pass either. Heavy drinking can lower a man’s testosterone and sperm counts as well as decrease libido and even cause impotence. It’s recommended that guys drink within the guidelines for moderate alcohol consumption; the CDC says that’s not more than 2 drinks a day.

When I’m trying to get pregnant what is the riskiest time during my monthly cycle to drink alcohol?

If you have a 28-day cycle, ovulation occurs around the 14th day after the first day of your last period. So, starting at mid-cycle you could be pregnant. In the 2 weeks between ovulation and when a pregnancy test could show the magic pink line the biggest risk of drinking is miscarriage. Alcohol can prevent a pregnancy from implanting on the lining of your uterus so heavy drinking or binging is particularly risky.

Can drinking in early pregnancy affect my baby?

The first 8 weeks of pregnancy are called the embryonic stage; this is when your baby’s organs and systems are forming. It’s important to avoid any alcohol during this time because it can cause significant birth defects. Many women don’t know they’re pregnant in those earliest weeks. So, if you’re not using birth control and you’re having sex, you shouldn’t be drinking alcohol during this time.

If you drink during pregnancy, after this earliest stage, alcohol’s effects on your baby’s brain may cause future behavior and learning problems—a condition known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). (See [insert HMB23 page #]).

The bottom line about drinking and pregnancy?

There’s no safe time in pregnancy, no safe amount and no safe type of alcohol.

 What’s 1 Alcoholic Drink?

1 Drink: 12 ounces of 5% beer, 8 oz 7% malt liquor, 5 oz of 12% wine, 1.5 oz hard liquor

Binge drinking: 4 or more for women, 5 or more for men on one occasion

Heavy drinking: 8 or more per week for women, 15 or more for men

Source: CDC

Further reading: How Men Can Increase Fertility Chances 

By Catherine Ruhl, CNM, MS

Interview: Ricki Lake on giving birth, pregnancy and motherhood

Interview: Ricki Lake on giving birth, pregnancy and motherhood

Ricki Lake never imagined that one of her more memorable film roles would involve giving birth in a bathtub. When the actress and former talk-show host delivered her son Owen six years ago, she recorded his home birth for posterity. She never envisioned the footage would be seen outside of her immediate family.

Fast forward to January, when Lake’s documentary, The Business of Being Born, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. The movie, which celebrates midwifery and natural birthing methods—while scrutinizing how some hospitals deliver maternal care—is Lake’s baby in every sense of the word. The film shows Lake birthing Owen at home with the help of a midwife. “There I was at 195 pounds, naked and giving birth to my son in the bathtub,” says Lake, who turns 40 this year. “I was hesitant at first to include the footage in the film. It’s very intimate but it’s also a beautiful moment.”

A labor of love

Lake had vastly different birthing experiences with her two sons. Milo, who is now 11, was born in a New York City hospital where Lake’s childbirth experience deviated from her birth plan. Although she had a midwife present, the hospital had certain protocols, and after a long labor she eventually had to be induced. Although she received exemplary care, Lake wondered if her son’s birth might have been different without all of the medical interventions. “I was in labor for almost 36 hours, tethered to an IV that was dispensing [the labor-inducing drug] Pitocin,” she says. “I didn’t feel as if I was in control of my body or that I had many choices.”

After reading the classic Spiritual Midwifery by midwife Ina May Gaskin, Lake decided to birth Owen at home, in water, surrounded by her midwife and family. “With my second son the delivery was nine hours long and I was entertaining friends and family at my home the next day,” says Lake.

Lake decided she had a story to tell as well as the background and resources needed to explore the notion of an ideal birth experience. She approached friend and director Abby Epstein with the idea of filming a documentary that would examine the politics and history of birthing in America, while also attempting to answer some tough questions, like why the U.S. spends twice as much per birth as any other industrialized country but still has high mortality rates for infants. Lake also asks, “Why are one in three women having C-sections? Are they really medically necessary?”

Lake wanted to advocate for the rights of expectant mothers and for better maternal care. So she bankrolled the project and served as its executive producer. To capture a variety of views and experiences, Lake and Epstein interviewed doctors, nurses, medical anthropologists and midwives while also following several women through their pregnancies and births.

Advocating choice

While some critics say the film advocates natural home births, Lake says her only goal was to educate pregnant women about their birthing options. “The film doesn’t advocate anything other than choices,” she says. “I’m not recommending that all women have a natural home birth or forego having an epidural.”

During her own pregnancies she grew tired of movies and television shows that depicted pregnant women lying in hospital beds screaming; she wanted the film to show birthing in a positive light. The film includes a number of women giving birth; these scenes have been praised for their mixture of delicacy and humor. “Books and movies can scare the hell out of pregnant women,” says Lake. “I want women to realize that giving birth isn’t an illness that needs to be numbed but rather a miraculous event that should be experienced.”

When Epstein learned she was pregnant during the filming, her experience also became part of the documentary. She originally opted to have a home birth, but after learning her baby was in a breech position, Epstein was admitted to a hospital where she delivered her son by Caesarean section.

Although the surgery was unexpected, both Epstein and Lake say the experience illustrated why women need to be educated about their options. “We don’t want women to feel bad if they have a C-section,” Lake says. “Our belief is that C-sections are fine as long as they are only performed to guarantee the health of the mother and baby. They shouldn’t be the first choice of delivery for healthy mothers.”

Celebrating midwives

Lake is especially passionate about the role of midwives in birth. She cites national research demonstrating that midwives achieve the same outcomes as physicians but with fewer disruptions to the natural process of birth. Midwives have also been shown to reduce Caesarean section rates by more than 50%, and their patients have significantly lower rates of episiotomies, induced labor and forceps births. Today’s certified nurse midwives are professional healthcare providers and registered nurses who have graduated from one of the advanced education programs accredited by the American College of Nurse Midwives.

Midwives assist women in all types of birthing situations and facilities; Lake had midwives present for both of her sons’ births—even during her first son’s hospital birth. “I’m not anti-doctor or anti-hospital,” Lake says. “I think it’s important for women to know what the statistics and risks are—for both a natural home birth and a hospital one.”

Educating women

To date, the film has been well received. By April it had already been rented or reserved by 85,000 customers of the online movie company Netflix. Another 14,000 subscribers opted to watch the movie online. “We’ve had obstetricians tell us that the medical community is embracing our film as a very important tool,” says Lake. “Midwives have thanked us for promoting an awareness of their profession, and women are telling us that in some cases they have switched care providers and left the film with very different ideas about their birth plan.”

Lake and Epstein are continuing their journey to empower expectant mothers with a new book, Your Best Birth, slated to hit bookstores next spring. “The book covers everything from questions to ask a midwife to having a vaginal birth after Cesarean,” Lake says. “I am so excited about both the movie and the book. I truly feel that these projects give my life meaning.”

The book will also feature the experiences of other celebrities, including supermodel Cindy Crawford, who birthed her two children at home. “She was a fantastic person to interview,”
Lake says. “She was very open about both of her children’s births and how the experiences changed her.”

Lake says that being a mom has altered her own life for the better. She revels in watching her sons grow up. “Both boys saw the premiere of the documentary with me,” Lake says. “And Owen gave me a beautiful handmade card that said, ‘Thank you for letting me be born in our bathtub at home.’ ” And for that, says Lake, he is very welcome.


By Linda Childers

A Flu Shot During Pregnancy Can Save You and Your Baby

A Flu Shot During Pregnancy Can Save You and Your Baby

You can protect your newborn from the flu if you get a flu shot during your pregnancy, says the New England Journal of Medicine. Getting the flu shot during pregnancy reduces flu among infants by as much as 63%, but currently only half of women who are pregnant during the flu season get the vaccination, even though it is safe and has been recommended since 1997.

Some women may not know that flu shots are recommended for pregnant women. But the flu can cause major problems during pregnancy, including increased risk for complications such as high fevers linked to increased risks for certain birth defects and hospitalization for respiratory problems associated with the flu.

Most healthcare providers typically give the flu shot during the second or third trimester, but if you’re an at-risk mom, such as someone who has asthma, the flu shot can be safely given even as early as the first trimester. The flu shot is also safe for breastfeeding moms and their newborns.

How does the flu shot you get protect your baby after birth? Although the flu vaccine isn’t recommended for infants ages 6 months or younger, vaccinated moms can pass along protective flu antibodies to their babies while pregnant and during breastfeeding.

If you’re concerned about thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative in flu shots, ask your healthcare provider for the thimerosal-free options widely available.

By AWHONN Editorial Staff

The Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) promotes the health of women and newborns.


Learn How Pregnancy Affects Your Sex Life

Learn How Pregnancy Affects Your Sex Life

You’ve probably figured out by now that sex had something to do with getting pregnant. But how does pregnancy affect sex? Now that you’re pregnant, you may have noticed some changes in your body and your desire when it comes to sex.

How Pregnancy Affects Sex

For many women, sexual changes occur throughout the nine months of pregnancy and it seems that there may be a general pattern. For many women, the nausea and fatigue that happens in the first trimester puts sex on the very back burner. You are just too sick and too tired! Your partner may not want to be sexual for fear of harming the fetus or causing something to go wrong. This is an idea that has no basis in fact but is usually a belief passed down in the family that pregnant woman should not have sex.

The second trimester is often a time when sexual interest and activity increases. You feel better, you look great and you have more energy. Your partner notices your beautiful growing belly and you feel sexy and desirable.

And then in the third trimester things slow down again. You may be too large for sex to be comfortable and/or you may once again be fatigued. For some people, the thought of having sex with a baby in there is just not a good thought. Some men (and women) have told me that they think the baby can “see” what his/her parents are doing! Or that the penis can bump the baby on the head! The fetus is well protected in the uterus by the cervix and the amniotic fluid and the fetus has no idea what sex is so cannot see or understand any of that. But beliefs are very strong and so many couples are not sexually active as the pregnancy draws to an end.

Sex Before Labor

We know that for the woman at the end of her pregnancy, sexual intercourse may help to stimulate labor. If and only if the cervix is ready, nipple stimulation may be enough to start contractions, and the semen deposited at the cervix from ejaculation contains prostoglandins that can actually soften the cervix and help to prepare it for labor. So if you are at your due date, or even better past your due date, and your waters have not broken, a nice romantic evening may hasten things along! And its way more fun than IVs and other drugs!

By Anne Katz, RN, PhD

A Look At Weight Gain During Pregnancy

A Look At Weight Gain During Pregnancy

So, you’re pregnant. Congratulations! This is a very special time in your life. It’s also, I recognize, an anxious time. Pregnancy-related issues that are not strictly health-related – including preparation for your child’s homecoming, finances and balancing family and work life once your baby is born – all weigh heavily on your mind.

You’re also, understandably, concerned about your baby’s health. You and your healthcare providers will spend a great deal of time in the coming months talking about things that can affect the health of your baby – such as whether to take folic acid supplements, acceptable amounts of fish or caffeine in your diet or whether certain activities are safe for the baby.

You’ll also spend some time talking about how much weight to gain. Women have long been concerned about how much weight to gain during pregnancy. Some of this concern, unfortunately, is cultural – the fear of appearing fat. But health concerns also drive a good deal of this worry, as they should.

Some weight gain during pregnancy is appropriate. But pregnancy isn’t license to break out the bonbons, either. There is such a thing as too much weight gain during pregnancy. There’s also great risk in gaining too little weight.

Your mother or grandmother might be surprised by what’s recommended. There was a time when the medical community used to think that the higher the weight gain, the greater the birth weight of the baby, and that bigger babies automatically came with greater risk of complications. But we’ve come to understand that the amount of weight each woman should gain, as well as its impact on her baby’s health, may be different depending on her weight before pregnancy and other factors.

In fact, recent studies have demonstrated that there is great risk associated with gaining too little weight during pregnancy. There’s great risk in gaining too much weight, too, so it’s important to stay within the recommended range.

Talk with your healthcare provider about these ranges. Work with her or him to devise a pregnancy diet plan that works for you. It’s a challenge to balance the amount of weight gain needed to ensure your health and that of your baby – so it’s important that you engage your healthcare team to achieve that balance.

Healthy weight gain in pregnancy

So, how much weight should you gain? It depends on how much you weigh now. First, calculate your body mass index, or BMI. (An online BMI calculator can be found here). Then, use the chart below to determine the appropriate amount of weight to gain during pregnancy:


BMI Appropriate weight to gain during pregnancy
Underweight 28-40 pounds
Normal 25-35 pounds
Overweight 15-25 pounds
Obese 11-20 pounds


By Carolyn M. Clancy, MD

Veggies For A Healthy Pregnancy

Veggies For A Healthy Pregnancy

You are your baby’s home for the next nine months, so you need nutrients that not only create a healthy environment for the baby to live in, but that also aid baby’s growth and development. So go veggies for a healthy pregnancy.

You need look no further than the produce aisle. Consuming veggies like asparagus, soybeans, sweet potato, spinach and lettuce helps you meet your needs for folic acid (folate) and other B vitamins, calcium, iron, vitamin A, fiber and antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E.

Did you know getting enough folic acid helps your placenta grow properly and it also protects against common birth defects? Other B vitamins are critical for the healthy development of baby’s skin, eyes and nerves.

Iron helps your baby and your placenta grow, and helps deliver oxygen to baby. Calcium helps your baby have strong teeth and bones; build a healthy heart, nerves and muscles; and to develop a normal heart beat and blood-clotting abilities.  If you don’t get enough, you draw on your own calcium stores in your bones, putting them at risk for osteoporosis.

Vitamin A is also needed for strong bones and teeth. Antioxidants like vitamins C and E protect you and your baby against free radical damage and help to keep you both healthy.  Fiber is your friend when it comes to combating constipation.

Need help getting extra veggies in? Try our Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers or Roasted Red Pepper, Spinach, and Feta Portobello Burgers and feel great about what you’re feeding yourself and your baby!

Roasted Red Pepper, Spinach, and Feta Portobello Burger

This burger is to die for!  It’s bursting with flavor.  If there is a burger ‘heaven’, you’ll feel as if your taste buds are there… oh and so is your happy waistline, since this burger is just 53 delicious calories!


1 red bell pepper

2 cups spinach

4 portobello caps

Olive oil in a spray can or bottle

4 tablespoons low-fat or fat-free feta cheese

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste


  • Preheat grill to a medium-high
  • Wash pepper, spinach, and Portobello caps
  • Cut pepper into 4 even pieces
  • Spray Portobello cap and pepper slices with olive oil (about 3 burst sprays per item) for a light dusting of oil
  • Place on grill with the open side of the mushrooms facing down.  Grill for 15-20 minutes, flipping the peppers and mushrooms halfway through.  When you flip the mushroom, top with spinach
  • Once grilled, place one grilled pepper piece on top of each mushroom.  Sprinkle with feta cheese and drizzle with balsamic.  Salt and pepper to taste
  • If you don’t have a grill, this recipe works just by broiling the veggies!  Broil on high and the cooking times will be the same
  • Per serving (with fat-free feta cheese and no salt to taste): Calories 53; total fat 2g; saturated fat 0g; cholesterol 0mg; sodium 25 mg; carbohydrate 8g; fiber 2g; sugars 4 g; protein 3g. Percent Daily Value: Vitamin A 47 perent; Vitamin C 70%; Calcium 3%; Iron 6%

Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers

Delicious and easy!

This juicy burger is so scrumptious and simple to cook that you will wonder why you haven’t discovered this before. All of the tantalizing spices add just the right pizzazz to this veggie burger.


1 (15.5-ounce) can candied sweet potatoes, or 1 and 34 cups cooked yams

2 (15 ounce) cans low-sodium cannellini beans, rinsed

2 tablespoons tahini

1 teaspoon lemon pepper or cayenne pepper (optional)

14 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Canola oil spray


  • Place drained sweet potatoes and beans in a large bowl and mash with a fork until mixed.
  • Add tahini, pepper, flour and mix again; the mixture will be moist and sticky. Then add the panko crumbs, and with your hands mix them in until you can form patties about the size of your palms. Add more panko if the mixture is too sticky
  • Spray a pan or skillet over medium heat with canola oil, and cook patties for two minutes on each side until lightly browned
  • Per burger: calories 205, total fat 3g, saturated fat 0g, cholesterol 0mg, sodium 25mg, carbohydrates 36g, dietary fiber 6.5g, sugars 5g, protein 9g.
  • Percent Daily Value: vitamin A 6 percent, vitamin C 2%, calcium 9%, iron 19%

On the subject of food make sure you read avoid these foods and eating habits during pregnancy and What to eat and avoid in pregnancy and 3 Key supplements you should have in pregnancy


By Tammy Lakatos Shames