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Portrait of three young pregnant women holding their pregnant bellies

5 Top Pregnancy Questions Answered

By Kristi Newmyer, MD January 11, 2023 Posted in: Maternity Care

There are many questions that a women has when she first gets pregnant. These answer some of the most common questions asked at a first OB/GYN appointment.

Can I Drink Caffeine While Pregnant?

Yes, like most things, in moderation. The American College of OB/Gyn recommends moderate caffeine consumption - less than 200 mg per day (two 8 ounce servings of standard coffee). In general, a coffee, tea or soda periodically throughout pregnancy is not going to increase the risk of miscarriage or preterm birth. However, the relationship of caffeine to growth restriction remains undetermined. A final conclusion cannot be made at this time as to whether there is a correlation between high caffeine intake and miscarriage. Other substances that contain higher doses of caffeine such as Red Bull, 5 hour energy have not been studied in pregnancy, but are generally not recommended.

Can I Dye My Hair While Pregnant?

Most experts think that using hair dye during pregnancy is not toxic for your fetus. There are different types of hair coloring, including:

  • Permanent color
  • Semi-permanent color
  • Temporary color

These all contain chemicals. Studies on animals show that high doses of these chemicals do not cause serious birth defects. Also, only a small amount of chemicals from hair dye is absorbed through the scalp. To limit the absorption even further, highlighting, as opposed to full hair dying, may result in less chemical being absorbed as the dye rests on foils verses the scalp itself.

Can I Eat Deli Meat, Cheese or Sushi While Pregnant?

The concern with these foods is contracting listeriosis. This is a foodborne illness from a bacteria called Listeria that is found in soil, water and some animals. Pregnant women are 10 times more likely to get listeriosis than the general population. Vomiting and diarrhea can cause the body to lose too much water which results in dehydration. Listeriosis also can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or preterm labor. Listeriosis can cause lifelong health problems for your baby, including intellectual disability, paralysis, seizures, blindness, or problems with the brain, kidneys, or heart. Listeriosis also can cause death in newborns.

To help prevent listeriosis, avoid eating the following foods while you are pregnant:

  • Unpasteurized milk and foods made with unpasteurized milk, including soft cheeses
  • Hot dogs and luncheon meats, unless they are heated until steaming hot just before serving
  • Refrigerated pâté and meat spreads
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood
  • Unwashed raw produce such as fruits and vegetables
  • All raw and undercooked seafood, eggs, meat, and poultry
  • Do not eat sushi made with raw fish (cooked sushi is safe)

Cooking and pasteurization are the only ways to kill Listeria. Wash your fruits and vegetables, do not eat raw meat/chicken/fish, heat up your deli meat, only consume dairy products that are pasteurized. Cheeses that are unpasteurized are typically imported from outside the U.S. and must be labeled as unpasteurized.

Is it Safe to Have Sex During Pregnancy?

In an uncomplicated, low risk pregnancy, all forms of foreplay, sex and intimacy are safe. Patients should be aware that it is not uncommon to have some spotting 24-48 hours after penetrative sex. Penetration, as well as orgasm, can also cause some cramping to occur, and is considered normal.

If bleeding occurrs that is similar to a period—you should call your doctor right away. If your cramping/pain is severe and persistent, you should call your OB/GYN right away. It’s also important to note that sexual activity can become uncomfortable—even painful—overtime with changing hormones, enlarging uterus, growing fetus. Therefore, it is important to communicate with your partner about these issues, and how intimacy can be modified to prevent discomfort.

Is it Dangerous For Me To Do Any Lifting of Any Kind During Pregnancy?

Lifting, in particular, poses a risk of musculoskeletal injury and low back pain. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health recommends limits for lifting in the workplace and has recently made recommendations specifically for pregnant workers. Recommended weight limits are based on the height of the lift and distance from the body, three lifting patterns, and whether you are less than 20 weeks versus 20 weeks or more.

  • For an ideal lift (defined as a two-handed lift with no twisting and starting at 71–132 cm [28–52 in] above the ground), the recommended weight limit is 36 lb. for women <20 weeks who have an infrequent lifting pattern and 26 lb for women >20 weeks who have an infrequent lifting pattern.
  • For women <20 weeks and those >20 weeks with a repetitive, short-duration lifting pattern (less than 1 hour at a time followed by a minimum of 1 hour nonlifting activity), the recommended weight limit is 30 lb and 22 lb, respectively.
  • For women <20 weeks and those >20 weeks who have a repetitive, long-duration pattern, the recommended weight limit is 18 lb and 13 lb, respectively.

If you have any concerns or questions at any time during your pregnancy, reach out to your OB/GYN provider immediately.

Kristi Newmyer, MD
Kristi Newmyer, MD

Kristi NewMyer, MD is an OBGYN at CHI Health.

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