Exercise, personal hygiene, personal grooming, intimacy, and travel are an important part of all of our lives. Many patients have unrealistic ideas of what they should and shouldn’t be able to do during pregnancy. Here are many of the concerns that patients express:
1) Can I travel by airplane and if so until when?
Airplane cabins are pressurized and travel by airplane is not a problem any time during pregnancy. There are two things that we would be concerned about. Sitting for long periods with legs flexed is a known risk of blood clots in your legs, especially during long flights. We suggest you sit with legs extended and get up frequently and walk up and down the aisle.
The second concern we have is the possibility of pre-term labor occurring while on a trip, which could require prolonged stay in an intensive care unit in an unfamiliar city and /or hospital. For this reason, we ask that our patients refrain from travel after 32 weeks.
The amount of radiation exposure when being screened at airports is negligible. You would have to be exposed to over 500,000 times this amount to have a harmful effect on your developing baby!
2) Can I exercise during pregnancy?
A wide range of physical activity is not only considered safe but is also recommended during pregnancy. In fact, our American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology(ACOG) encourages 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise per day, which are the same guidelines advocated by the CDC (Center of Disease Control) in non-pregnant women. You should although consider the risks of activities that could easily result in falling or cause bodily harm, especially to the abdomen. As the pregnancy advances, the size of the fetus and abdomen may further limit certain types of exercise. See ACOG recommendations:
3) Can I get a massage?
I have never encountered a pregnancy complication caused by massage therapy. I haven’t found any reason to avoid massage during pregnancy and there are certainly known benefits from massage including relaxation of muscle spasm (common in pregnancy), increase in mental well-being, and reduction in stress. Many massage experts do recommend avoiding certain areas of the body during pregnancy such as the abdomen during the more advanced stages of pregnancy. Some recommend avoiding foot massage later in pregnancy. There are others who recommend waiting until the second trimester to begin massage therapy.
4) Can I sleep on my back?
Once you get past the middle of your second trimester the pure size of the uterus, placenta, fluid, and baby can create a great deal of pressure on the major blood vessels that run along the spinal column. This can potentially lower the blood flow to the uterus and baby. For this reason, it is advisable to sleep on your side. Sleeping on your side, especially with your head elevated may also help with acid reflux and can help improve breathing while lying down.
5) Is Sex OK?
The answer is definitely yes! It is worth mentioning that orgasm can cause some abdominal muscle contractions that are short lived and not associated with labor. We will definitely inform you to refrain from sexual intercourse when experiencing certain complications of pregnancy such as pre-term labor and placenta previa.
6) Can I dye my hair?
Although there are certain unpleasant chemicals in hair coloring products, there is insignificant absorption of these chemicals through the skin and hair coloring is felt to be relatively safe in pregnancy. It is recommended that all hair coloring should be done in a well ventilated area to avoid any significant chemical inhalation. If you are still reluctant, there are vegetable based dyes called henna, which can be used but are not permanent and do not last as long.
7) Can I use nail polish?
You should be very comfortable with having your nails polished as long as it is in a well-ventilated area. The potentially toxic chemicals used in polishes and removers, like formaldehyde and acetone, are mainly toxic if inhaled in large amounts and are not absorbed through your nails.
8) Can I paint the baby’s room?
Fortunately, most interior pant used today is latex based and does not contain the more toxic paint thinners and solvents that are in oil paints. Most people including myself have been around a room that has been professionally spray painted and have witnessed the strong odor of the solvents used. These are the chemicals which should be avoided while pregnant. If you must use a solvent based oil paint make certain you use a mask and are working in a well ventilated room in order to limit exposure. Older homes, more than 30 years, could have been painted with a lead based paint. Lead, in significant amounts can definitely be harmful to both you and your baby. For this reason, you should have someone else do the scraping in older homes.
9) Can I do Yoga?
Yoga is not a problem. Yoga can stretch areas of muscle spasm and may help reduce certain muscle pain associated with pregnancy. Once you are further along certain stances are best avoided. Finding a well qualified Yoga instructor will help you avoid potential injury. Hot Yoga is definitely a NO NO!
10) Can I use my Hot Tub?
Raising your body temperature above 102 for any significant length of time can be detrimental to pregnancy at any stage. The water temperature in many hot tubs is around 104 degrees and it takes less than 10 minutes to raise your body temp to 102. For this reason we ask our patients to avoid hot tubs.
11) Can I take a warm bath?
Because a good portion of your body is not constantly submerged and you can keep the water warm, instead of hot, baths are not a problem.