5 Things Every Pregnant Woman Should Know (Though Your Doctor Won’t Tell You)

Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D., an award-winning journalist and a Schuster Institute Fellow at Brandeis University, has just released a new book called The Business of Baby. In it she takes on a number of controversial issues facing those who are thinking of becoming pregnant, are pregnant, or are new parents. Here she offers a guest blog post with her take on 5 key things that every pregnant woman should know. 

1. Prenatal vitamins can make you sick: Not all prenatal vitamins are created equal. Some “natural” brands, whether over-the-counter or prescribed by a doctor, contain harmful additives, including petroleum-based dyes like Red 40. The nausea you’ve attributed to pregnancy hormones may actually be from the vitamins you’ve been told to take.

2. Ultrasounds are not medically recommended: Though some doctors do them at every visit, routine ultrasounds are not recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for normal pregnancies. There is no evidence that ultrasounds improve pregnancy outcomes but there is an increasing body of evidence that prolonged exposure to ultrasound can cause harm.

3. How much weight you gain is not as important as what you eat: Every woman gains weight differently but all pregnant women need nutritious, fresh, high quality food. The fat your body stores during pregnancy is there for a reason: to give you reserves for breastfeeding after the baby is born. It’s much more important to eat high quality protein, healthy fats, fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and unprocessed foods than to worry about the amount of weight you’re gaining. Doctors actually look down on nutrition as irrelevant and unimportant, says Michael Klaper, M.D., director of the Institute of Nutrition Education and Research in Manhattan Beach, California. “There’s an inherent contempt for nutrition built into Western medicine,” Klaper explains. “Nutrition is a sissy sport among physicians.”

4. You can avoid gestational diabetes and anemia: With a healthy whole food based diet and enough exercise, most women can avoid common pregnancy problems. According to Stuart Fischbein, M.D., a Los Angeles based obstetricians with 30 years experience, the key is to eat proactively, avoiding processed sugar and doing enough exercise (to prevent gestational diabetes) and eating iron-rich foods (like eggs, red meat, and green leafy vegetables) along with foods high in vitamin C to help your body absorb the iron (to prevent anemia).

5. Your doctor believes birth is an illness: Growing a human being inside your body may be the most magical, spiritual, awe-inspiring time of your life, but your obstetrician has been taught to look for worse case scenarios and view your pregnancy as an accident waiting to happen. If you want a care provider who shares your wonder and a gentle birth, pick a well-trained midwife over a doctor.


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  2. by Harriet Meadow

    On April 17, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    Hmmm…from what my doctor has said to me, she has a more positive outlook regarding pregnancy than what you describe in number 5. She also does not believe in unnecessary interventions, and she avoids invasive processes when she can (for example, I’m almost 38 weeks along and she has yet to do a cervical check because there’s no reason to think I need one). Perhaps I’m just lucky, but there have to be other doctors like her.

  3. by Mandy

    On April 17, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    I think #5 is an unfair over-generalization. Not all midwives are great and there are definitely OBs out there that are going to be supportive of a natural birth and do not treat pregnancy as an illness. I do agree it is important to do your research and be mindful of who you chose for your care, but I have had successful, healthy pregnancies and births under the care of both a CPM and an OB.

  4. by Alice

    On April 18, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    So basically if you listen to her, don’t take vitamins and don’t get prenatal medical care. Just eat well and your pregnancy will be smooth sailing. That’s fine and dandy if you’re one of the lucky ones with a totally uncomplicated pregnancy.

    “Your obstetrician has been taught to look for worse case scenarios”… is completely right and as it should be because because if you happen to be one of the unlucky ones with those unforeseen childbirth complications, wouldn’t you want somebody who HAS seen the worst case scenarios and knows how to deal with them? There is a place for midwives (like I said, for those with uncomplicated pregnancies), but I don’t think all doctors are unnecessary and evil… they wish you well but have the experience from seeing many many more patients to know that even while the majority will be fine, unfortunately there are some who will not be. All in all, as a currently pregnant woman, I’d rather be under the care of someone who knows what to do to save me and my baby if god forbid, the worst happens… rather than someone who may hold my hand and tell me that being pregnant is “magical, spiritual, awe-inspiring” but who will be at a loss if anything should go wrong.