Prenatal health an important part of pregnancy

HOUGHTON – Finding out you’re pregnant can be a joyous occasion that’s cause for celebration, but it can also be a time for questions and concern.

Rebecca Baudoin, who is an Obstetrician/Gynecologist at Portage Health said the first thing a woman should do if she finds out she’s pregnant and has questions about it should be to contact her local physician or OB/GYN to have a test done.

While some may say it’s okay to have a moderate amount of alcohol during pregnancy, Baudoin said many people interpret moderate in different ways so it’s better to just not drink at all.

“The problem is that we don’t have levels that would be defined as okay,” Baudoin said.

Another important factor is the type of foods a woman consumes while she’s pregnant.

As is the case even if someone’s not pregnant, Baudoin said a good variety of fruits and vegetables, some protein and avoiding a lot of overly sweet, fried or fatty foods is helpful for a healthy pregnancy.

Other foods to avoid would be soft cheeses and deli meat.

“Deli meat is something that can carry bacteria and is harmful in a pregnant woman.”

Baudoin suggested common seafood as something good when eaten in moderation, which is defined as two to three times a week.

“Salmon, shrimp, trout and whitefish is fine,” she said.

However, not all seafood is good and predator fish like shark, swordfish and king mackerel should be avoided because of the potentially dangerous mercury levels.

Prenatal vitamins are something that most women take part in during a pregnancy. Baudoin recommends getting one that contains about 800 micrograms of folic acid.

“That’s the main thing that’s going to be important,” Baudoin said. “The higher level of folic acid in early pregnancy will decrease certain birth defects.”

Baudoin said current research suggests that extra folic acid may also reduce the likelihood of autism.

The prenatal vitamin will also include an extra dose of iron, which will be in the range of about 28 milligrams.

There are also prenatal classes available for women at most hospitals that delivery babies.

“A class can be very helpful about what to expect during labor and delivery,” Baudoin said. “But it can also cause more anxiety in some women. But a lot of women feel better taking that kind of class. It depends on the woman.”

Despite the widespread recognition of the name, Baudoin said that lamaze classes that help teach breathing techniques during labor are not widely used anymore.

Through her experience, Baudoin said the main concern in pregnancy is labor and how much it’s going to hurt, as well as the health of the baby.

For women who are concerned about the pain, but don’t want to take drugs, there are ways to try to cope with the pain.

“Most birth centers will have trained people to help women cope with labor using breathing techniques and position changes,” Baudoin said. “There a lot of different techniques that don’t include drugs or medication and will help women make it through labor.”

For women who may be thinking of taking a different route for birth, whether that be a water birth scenario or using a midwife for a home delivery, Baudoin said she relies on the stance of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which is the governing board in the field of obstetrics and gynecology.

“Their stance is that women should make an informed decision about where and how their birth experience plays out, however, ACOG does not recommend home birthing,” Baudoin said. “The safety aspect of home-birth is that it might not be as safe as in a hospital.”

While premature birth can be an issue in some pregnancies, Baudoin said not enough is known to be able to effectively combat it.

“We don’t know what causes it and we don’t have great methods to stop it or slow it because we don’t the understand the mechanisms and biochemicals inside a woman’s body that cause pre-term labor,” Baudoin said.

The main thing that Baudoin would like women to know is to be careful where they get their information from if they’re not directly consulting a doctor.

“For a lot of medical information, the Internet can be good and bad at the same time. Good sources are places like the National Institute of Health or the World Health Organization or Centers for Disease Control,” Baudoin said. “I do have a lot of women who will ask questions about something they read on a blog and that is the worst place to get accurate medical information.”