Answering Your Top Pregnancy Questions

dr. aimee vanstraaten
By Aimee VanStraaten, MD, FACOG Obstetrics & Gynecology | St. Luke's OB-GYN, Lake View Medical Clinic
About the Author:
My philosophy in prenatal care is to work as a partner with my patients to help educate them in making the best choices for their pregnancy care.

If you’re expecting or thinking about getting pregnant, chances are, you’ll have a few questions. This is when it’s important to have a good relationship with your OB-GYN, certified nurse midwife (CNM), primary care provider or family doctor. Any of these medical professionals can field your ongoing questions and calm any concerns you have.

While every experience is different, at St. Luke’s Birthing Center, I often get asked the same five questions from expecting mothers. Here’s how I would answer them.

1. What foods can I eat and what can I avoid?

It’s important to have a well-rounded diet and take everything in moderation. However, because some foods can contain bacteria that’s harmful to pregnant women, it’s best to avoid:

  • Raw fish
  • Deli meats (that aren’t heated)
  • Unpasteurized (soft) cheese

Other foods should be decreased or enjoyed in moderation while pregnant, including:

  • Coffee
  • Fish

Because it’s a healthy protein and contains helpful DHAs (omega-3 fatty acid), fish can be a good food for pregnant women. However, the type of fish and how often you enjoy fish each week is important to consider. Bigger fish usually have more toxins (such as mercury) than small fish, and fish from some local lakes can have higher mercury levels than others. This Minnesota Department of Health site is a great resource for conscious fish consumption.

2. When is the first ultrasound? Or, when can I find out the gender of my baby?

At your 8-week appointment, we’ll do an ultrasound to confirm the due date. You’ll get a chance to see the baby and hear the heartbeat. Your 20-week appointment includes a detailed ultrasound, which is when you’ll find out the sex of the baby—if you choose to find out before the birth.

3. Do I need to worry about sleeping on my back?

The recommendation is to sleep on your side instead of flat on your back. It probably doesn’t become an issue until about 20 weeks. The reason for this is because the heavy, pregnant uterus can push on blood vessels, which limits blood flow. Some women get scared if they wake up on their back, but if it’s affecting you or the baby, you’ll often feel nauseous or sweaty.

4. What can I do for morning sickness or nausea?

Eat small snacks of bland food, and keep up with fluid intake. Take small sips when you’re feeling nauseous. If none of those are working, you can also take Vitamin B6 daily or Doxylamine (Unisom) over the counter, taking half a tablet at the time.

Ginger is also a good natural product. Try sipping ginger ale or nibbling on ginger hard candies. If it’s really bad, we can give you a prescription to help manage it.

5. What can I do for constipation?

Here’s something you might not know or think about: a lot of newly pregnant women get pretty constipated. Progesterone, which increases in early pregnancy, acts as a muscle relaxant and keeps the process from moving as it usually does. You can do a few things to counter this:

  1. Increase fluid intake.
  2. Add more fiber in the diet, such as dried fruits or prune juice, fiber muffins, cereals or supplements.
  3. Over-the-counter stool softeners (Senna or Colace) work well. They’re mild, instead of a big time laxative. Miralax is a stronger alternative and can be bought over the counter.
  4. Finally, try moving to a prenatal vitamin that doesn’t contain iron.

Speaking of vitamins, women sometimes ask when to start prenatal vitamins. The answer? It’s never too early. Ideally, you’d start a few months before trying to become pregnant. Folic acid is the key, so make sure that’s included in the vitamin brand you choose. It’s important to get folic acid in your diet before getting pregnant.

To make an appointment with Dr. Aimee VanStraaten

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