Pregnancy Q&A with Amanda Selk, MD

By Amanda Selk, MD, FRCSC on December 16, 2013

Q: Give it to me straight. How much pain occurs during labour and delivery?

A: Yes, there is pain involved in having a baby, but everyone copes with pain differently. Some women have very fast labours and find the pain easier to manage. Others have very long slow labours where exhaustion can make the pain difficult to manage. For some people, it’s important to experience the pain of labour and delivery while others want to have as little pain as possible. Pain relief options depend on what stage of labour you are in and can include injectable pain drugs like morphine, epidurals (which can take all the pain away for many people), and nitrous oxide, a gas people breathe at the end of labour. Sometimes you go thorough labour and delivery without any pain medication, but then your doctor or midwife needs to use local anesthesia to repair a tear. The best advice I can give is to keep an open mind. If you are managing fine, that’s great, and if you find you need or want pain relief, then ask for it.

Q: Sometimes I don’t feel my baby kicking. Should I be worried?

A: If you are over 26 weeks and you haven’t noticed your baby move, sometimes it’s just because you’ve been busy. Have a rest, a snack, something to drink (not alcohol) and pay attention to baby. Your baby should move six times in two hours. If it doesn’t, contact your care provider, and if they are unavailable, go to the hospital to get checked out. You don’t need to count all the time – just if you notice a difference in your baby’s movements. If you have a dramatic decrease in movements you should also call your care provider.

Q: What is preeclampsia and how dangerous is it?

A: Preeclampsia is a condition where high blood pressure develops or worsens in pregnancy. It can affect many organs in the body and it is a very serious condition. Sometimes it affects a woman’s kidneys and they start to pee protein in their urine. Sometimes it affects other organs like the liver or the blood so that it doesn’t clot properly. It can affect the brain and nerves and can lead to a seizure or a stroke. Because preeclampsia affects blood vessels, babies can be smaller so their growth is monitored. Preeclampsia can happen to any woman but it is more common in women who have had it before, have high blood pressure prior to pregnancy, are under the age of 18 or are over the age of 40, have diabetes, are heavier (BMI >35), have a family history of preeclampsia, or are pregnant with twins or triplets. For many women it occurs in the third trimester, which is one of the reasons visits to the doctor or midwife become more frequent.

Q: I heard I can’t dye my hair when I am pregnant, is this true?

A: It is true there are toxic chemicals in hair dye, but very little seems to be absorbed into your body. If you want to avoid the chemicals completely, try dying your hair with vegetable dyes instead. Another option is to avoid hair dying in the first trimester when baby’s organs
are forming. You can also choose to just get your hair frosted or highlighted, which avoids putting chemicals directly on the the scalp (which is where absorption occurs). Have your hair done in a well-ventilated area. Overall there seems to be little risk to the baby if you dye your hair three to four times during your pregnancy.

Q: Celebrities always seem to lose their baby weight within weeks! Is that common?

A: Usually it takes much longer than a few weeks to lose the baby weight (unless you also have a personal chef and personal trainer at your disposal). The more extra weight you gain in pregnancy, the harder it will be to lose after Baby comes. Diet and exercise are the keys to returning to your pre-pregnancy weight. Breastfeeding moms burn 500 calories a day just from breastfeeding. Healthy eating
is very important as well, as is not eating more than you need. Walk with the baby. If you are a jogger, you can get a jogging stroller. Other options to regain your fitness level are mom and baby fitness classes, or borrowing workout DVDs from your local library.

Q: Is it safe to paint my house while pregnant? I’m concerned that the chemicals in the paint will harm my baby.

A: This is a common question because people often want to paint baby’s room, but unfortunately we don’t have any scientific studies to tell us if there is a level of paint exposure that is unsafe. My best advice is to get someone else to do the painting. Failing that, if you must paint, make sure the area is well ventilated and try to limit the amount of time you are exposed to the fumes. 

By Amanda Selk, MD, FRCSC| December 16, 2013

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