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Take The Myth Out Of Pregnancy

On Thursday, The Early Show's "Life Matters" series looks at pregnancy myths.

The stress of being pregnant is becoming more complicated for first-time mothers-to-be, with advances in technology, medicine and science leaving many confused about what they can or cannot do during their pregnancies.

Dr. Laura E. Riley, director of OB-GYN infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and chair of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Committee on Obstetric Practice, has information to clear up misconceptions.

"Women are probably a little more controlling these days," Dr. Riley says. "So the one thing you can control is what you ingest and what you come into contact with."

So she notes it is important to be careful throughout the whole pregnancy - not just during the first trimester - to prevent fetal developmental problems.

She notes pregnant women should particularly avoid the following:

  • Smoking - Results in small babies
  • Alcohol – Causes birth defects and developmental problems
  • Recreational Drugs – Drugs such as cocaine result in small babies, placental problems and more.

She separates the fact from fiction on the following statements:

Drinks:

Avoid caffeine at all costs - False. Avoiding all caffeine is extreme. There's some data that suggests that if you have a caffeine drinker - six, seven cups of coffee a day - that's too much and associated with an increased risk of miscarriage. But a cup or two is fine.

Foods:

Avoid cheese - False. It's not necessary to avoid all cheese. There are some cheeses- un-pasteurized cheeses, blue-vein cheeses that can get contaminated with listeria on rare occasions. Listeria can cause harm to the baby. In fact, it can sometimes cause fetal death. But it's very rare. If you avoid those cheeses, you should be fine. Deli meats also need to be avoided; the CDC says you should cook them.

Limit your fish intake - True. There is some concern about the high mercury levels in some fish. Pregnant women should stay away from swordfish, marlin, kink mackerel and shark because they have high mercury levels. The recommendation is to vary your fish intake and probably limit tuna to one serving a week or something like that.

Vitamin A:

Limit vitamin A intake - True. Taking Accutane is bad; don't use it; it causes birth defects as does excessive doses of vitamin A. Recognize that there is a small amount of vitamin A in prenatal vitamins and that's fine. It's excessive doses of vitamin A that may be associated with birth defects. Retin-A, the cream you put on your skin to get rid of wrinkles, is not associated with birth defects and is OK to use.

Grooming and personal care:

Do not color your hair - False. Hair color is fine. If you're super paranoid, use a vegetable dye. Perming your hair is fine, too.

Stay out of hot tubs and saunas - True. Yes, limit high heat.

Avoid bug sprays - That's a myth. Use the bug spray. You don't want to get bitten by mosquitoes that have the West Nile virus.

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