All right, moms-to-be, the doctor is in! Our OB, Dr. Stephen Weiss, answers your first trimester questions.
Q: I’ve been to a few parties this winter where I can smell smoke from a fire in the fireplace. I’ve read that breathing smoke can be harmful for a fetus. How seriously should I take that warning?
A: Burning wood in the fireplace is generally safe during pregnancy, if the chimney is operating properly and carries away the majority of the smoke and carbon monoxide. But if there’s visible smoke, or it’s making you cough, I recommend that you leave the party, or at the very least crack open a window to allow fresh air in and make it easier for the fireplace to vent.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas formed by burning material. Excessive exposure is dangerous. In a study of pregnant women in Guatemala, those with daily exposure to wood smoke delivered babies whose birth weight was, on average, 2 ounces lower than the babies of pregnant women who weren’t exposed. And the early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning—headaches, nausea, and fatigue—can all be mistaken for the flu this time of year.
Q: Is it possible to feel yourself conceiving? I swear I know the exact moment I became pregnant, but my family thinks I’m a little nuts. Is there any medical evidence for this?
A: I can find no research to support a physical ability to recognize the moment of conception. But I can’t argue against the possibility of some spiritual connection between a mother and a new life.
Cup of joe
Q: I’m in my first trimester, and I’m exhausted all the time. Is it OK to indulge once in a while and have a cup of coffee to get me through the day?
A: Yes, in moderation—like a 5-ounce coffee a few times a week. Now, the long answer: Caffeine has never been linked to birth defects, preterm births, or small babies in humans, but it has been in animal research. Some human studies have shown an increase in miscarriages if more than 300 milligrams of caffeine are consumed per day.
There’s no evidence of harm at lesser amounts, but many ob/gyns feel 150 milligrams should be the daily limit, so there’s a safety margin. Also, caffeine is a stimulant and can affect baby’s sleep patterns in utero. To help you determine your daily intake,
here are the amounts of caffeine in typical drinks and foods:
16 ounces of strong coffee = 400 milligrams
16 ounces regular strength coffee = 260 milligrams 8 ounces coffee ice cream = 72 milligrams
6 ounces black or green tea = 45 milligrams
12 ounces caffeinated soda = about 40 milligrams 16 ounces decaf coffee = about 10 milligrams
1 ounce chocolate = 26 milligrams
Q: My prenatal yoga instructor advises against pedicures because the nail technician could induce labor by pressing against certain areas of the foot. Should I be concerned about this?
A: Probably not. There is a reflexology point on the ankle that may affect the uterus, but a good reflexologist should know to avoid it, even though there’s no proof that massaging it will cause labor.
You might be concerned, instead, about the products used at the salon. These can contain formaldehyde and toluene, which are toxic in large quantities and with prolonged exposure. In general, I would be more worried about a pregnant nail technician than an occasional customer, but if you really like to get your nails done, you might look for a salon that’s well ventilated and uses products free of these chemicals.